Ab Imperio (2012), 2

Titel der Ausgabe 
Ab Imperio (2012), 2
Weiterer Titel 
Varieties of Colonialism

Kazan', Russland 2012: Selbstverlag des Herausgebers
124 € Jahresabo, 31 € Einzelhelheft



Ab Imperio. Studies of New Imperial History and Nationalism in the Post-Soviet Space
Russian Federation
Postanschrift: P.O. Box 157, Kazan' 420015. Tel./Fax: 7-8432-644-018
Kaplunovskiy, Alexander

Dear friends and colleagues,

"Ab Imperio" editors are pleased to announce the release of the second issue of the journal in 2012. "Ab Imperio" is a bilingual (English Russian) international scholarly journal dedicated to the study of empire and nationalism in the post Soviet space. The second issue of the journal in 2012 is devoted to the exploration of "VARIETIES OF COLONIALISM". The language of each publication (Russian or English) is indicated by a letter in brackets.



The editors of Ab Imperio invited authors and readers to discuss varieties of colonialism in this issue of the journal. Seemingly, “colonialism” is an obvious category in studies of empire. It is exactly the ability to expand and incorporate new territories and peoples that is commonly held to be a characteristic of empire. Moreover, the modern interpretation of colonialism has brought together the political power of the West European nation-state and the production of knowledge about human diversity. And yet, are all aspects of colonialism so obvious?

The textbook definition of “colony” usually starts (in chronological order) with mentioning settlements on foreign shores by natives of Greek poleis and Roman Italy, then focusing on the modern understanding of colony as an element of geopolitical expansion of the “West” (the developed countries). It is tacitly implied that Greeks spreading to Asia Minor and the Black Sea littoral cannot be discussed in terms of modern Western colonialism: colonies are present, while colonialism is not, inasmuch as there are no conventional characteristics of it. There is no attempt to impose political domination upon overseas territories by Corinth or even Sparta, no economic exploitation of the colonized lands. The word “Metropole” exists, but the relations of “the core and periphery” do not. Hence, no colonialism.

The history of antiquity is sufficiently far from the themes explored by Ab Imperio (“What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba …?”). However, in an issue dedicated to the role of colonialism in the production of structures and cultures of imperial and postimperial diversity, it is impossible to ignore the obvious “West-centrism” of today’s understanding of colonialism. Is it just modern capitalist overseas empires that conducted colonial policies, and are these policies the only, and exemplary, form of colonialism?

The first part of this question is answered negatively in the article that opens the issue: the Russian translation of the Introduction to Pekka Hämäläinen’s pioneering study The Comanche Empire, characteristically titled “Reversed Colonialism.” Hämäläinen shows how, over a hundred years (from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries), the Comanche tribal confederation took control over enormous swathes of territory in the southern part of today’s United States. In fact, the Comanche empire established colonial relations of domination and exploitation with the outposts of Euro-American colonists. The formal colonial empires of Spain, France, and Britain turned out to be, in effect, in tributary relations with “savages.” The example of the Comanches clearly illustrates that imperialism and colonialism was not a privilege of modern European societies and of the political forms they created.

In Hämäläinen’s work, we see how giving agency to historical actors who had so far been viewed solely as victims and objects of European colonization fundamentally changes the picture of the peopling of North America by Europeans. This is not to say that this colonization was not accompanied by the extermination of native Americans. Rather, the history that we access by changing perspective and giving agency to historical actors is much more rich and complex, with a multidimensional moral and ideological subtext.

This also answers the second part of the question about the exclusively Western forms and meanings of colonialism. Getting back to the ancient Greeks and their colonization of Ionian islands, Italy, and the Black Sea Coast, we can recall that historians usually employ the categories of cultural transfer and economic exchanges, although without forgetting about violence and military engagements. Taking the logic of dictionary definitions seriously, we presume that colonialism can play an important role in population migrations, in the circulation of ideas and technology, and in the transformation of social structures and political cultures of the societies of the metropole and the colonies (as was the case in antiquity).

Clearly, the very term “colonialism” is so semantically (and ideologically) overloaded that discussing unconventional aspects of colonialism and migration meets resistance at the level of analytical language. The complex overlapping of meanings in the terms “colonialism” and “coloniality,” the possibility for historical actors – especially in the Russian and Soviet imperial contexts – to function simultaneously as colonized and colonizers, and the connection of colonialism with territoriality, on the one hand, and modern knowledge, on the other, complicates the analytical usage of the term “colonialism.” This is why for a productive analysis of the role of colonialism in the production and maintenance of social diversity, the editors of Ab Imperio decided to shift the analytical language, and to discuss the problem in the context of a conversation about nomadism. Hence, we publish in this issue the thematic forum “Unsettling Nomadism,” assembled by our invited guest editor, Serguei Alex. Oushakine, to whom the editors are extremely grateful for a most interesting collaborative experience.

Indeed, “colonialism without a metropole” (just as “empire without colonies”) nicely fits into the context of discussions of nomads and nomadism. In essence, we are looking at a very fundamental phenomenon of the social process: cultural and economic transformation in the course of spatial movement. Whose movement? And where to? − In a certain analytical context, these clarifications might not even be important. As Serguei Oushakine reminds us in his introduction to the forum (citing Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari), “History is always written from a sedentary point of view.” It is the founding fantasy of nation-centered discourse that a certain population is original and autochthonous to a particular territory. Even today’s history of transfers is developing as a study of mutual influences between quite homogeneous national state entities. Under these circumstances, the concept of nomadism – as the spatial movement of people that leads to their contact with new natural and social landscapes and uncertain political outcomes – appears to bear fruit. It is precisely the openness of this conception that allows scholars to pay attention to previously ignored situations of contact and interaction, without being tied by interpretations built into the very analytical model they use.

For instance, if we approach the colonization of the Kazakh steppes during the Virgin Lands campaign of the 1950s from the perspective of “nomadism,” it allows us to distance ourselves from seemingly obvious ideological clichés and to rethink the phenomenon more systematically. Were those who arrived in the Virgin lands (or at the construction site of the Bratsk power plant, or the Baikal–Amur railroad) imperialists? What metropole did they represent? Was it Moscow? But where was supreme power in Kazakhstan localized prior to their arrival, if not in Moscow? To what extent can we speak about the sense of colonial superiority of the newly arrived over the local population? Of course, one cannot deny the growing colonial pressure on the Kazakhs with the development of the Virgin Lands campaign. However, taking a look at this colonization from “aside”, from the vantage point of the very process of migration and interaction opens up a whole spectrum of important relations of social adaptation and cultural exchanges – apart from the direct relations of domination and subjugation (which are difficult to correlate with specific social groups). This leads to an entire reconstruction of the emerging worldview shared by the “locals” and the “newly arrived” that becomes more nuanced and inclusive. It is an irony of history (or at least historical terminology) that the indigenous and the local in this example are the recent nomads – Kazakhs, while the arrived “nomads” are representatives of the settled cultures of the European USSR. This case proves yet again that nomadism is not a status or condition, but a process.

It is clear that the historical term (nomadism, nomads) can become productive as a foundation for an explanatory model only inasmuch as a clear distinction is drawn between its functioning as an analytical category and as a historical category of practice. This means that in using the term “nomadism” in an analytical sense, participants in this forum do not transfer onto their objects of research (whether these are Lithuanian labor migrants in the UK, participants in Komsomol construction sites in Siberia, African students in the late USSR, or Buddhist monks) the whole complex of historical associations, such as paganism and clan organization, diet preferences, and the economy of raiding. It is implied that “nomads” describes a social group in the situation of interaction with a foreign milieu, with an established social structure, often outside the context of habitual connections and surroundings. Thus understood, nomadism appears a much more adequate and correct analytical model (than, for example, “Mercurianism”) for thinking about social dynamics.

On the other hand, it is important to remember the meaning of the phenomenon of historical nomadism, which puts certain limits on the use of nomadism as a metaphor. The nomads of the steppes of Northern Eurasia are a relatively recent phenomenon. Not unlike the way that whales and dolphins are descendants of mammals that returned into the sea, nomadism was a later stage in the evolution of agriculturalists and is not directly connected with roaming primitive hunters and gatherers. Only with the domestication of the dog and the horse did the mobile grazing of cattle become possible, while the full development of the nomadic forms of production (and organization of society) emerged even later, possibly, at the turn of the first millennium BC. This means that a stable cultural idiom identifying nomadism with archaism, primitivism, and barbarity is just an ideological and polemical argument: historical nomadism is no more archaic than settled agriculturalism of that time. This is why it is doubly inappropriate to transfer connotations of backwardness and primitivism to the nomads as a modern metaphor or category of analysis.

This is connected with the second important quality of historical nomadism. Nomadic societies are always in a complex symbiosis with settled cultures and never exist in complete isolation. This symbiosis can be in the form of raids, trade, or even political integration (in the Khazar Kaganate of the empire of Chingis Khan), which is reflected in the popular cliché of the nomads’ “parasitism.” It would be naive to deny the brutal and predatory nature of nomadic raids, but to single out this characteristic as a fundamental quality of the nomads is similar to the paranoia of “exploitation” in Marxism (as wars between settled agriculturalists were not more humane and did not involve less plundering). More important is the fact that the dependence of the nomads on the settled neighbors was a consequence of their highest degree of economic and ecological specialization, which was achieved at the expense of loss of autarchic self-sufficiency. Nomads needed bread and silk, silver and iron, and became the main factor in establishing continental connections and exchanges, often in the form of wars and conquests. Hence, denying the ability of nomadic societies to produce complex, including spiritual, products – just as romantic fantasies about the self-sufficient and unique inner world of the nomads – is untenable. Nomads were an inseparable part of the regional social space, and an isolated analysis of “settled” and “nomadic” cultures is therefore not just ideologically suspect but scholarly untenable.

These characteristics of historical nomadism influence the mode of using this term as a category of analysis of processes of social mobility: “nomads” are not a pathology of “normal” society but an inseparable part of it. They are not “wilder,” more elemental vagabonds than the rest, they just happen to be better at particular forms of social and economic interaction. The most important function of nomadism in society – or, better said, the most important aspect of the social behavior that can be called nomadism – is the intensification of contacts and mutual interaction that creates new meanings and structures. Bringing in new knowledge and experience from the outside that is not based on establishing hegemony can be very conveniently discussed in terms of nomadism. We just have to resist the cognitive “basic instinct” that requires us to seek domination and power behind every aspect of the active transfer of ideas and skills. Suffice it to recall the trope of the “Jewish domination”: detecting the influence of “others” must signal the facts testifying to their hegemony! The widespread thesis of the nomadic nature of Jewry in the ideology of modern anti-Semitism in the nationalizing states (ranging from anthropological “expertise” to the artistic metaphor of the Wandering Jew) is no accident. This example confirms the productiveness of employing nomadism as an analytical frame for as long as it allows us to do what other conventional models cannot: to discuss the fundamental character of internal and external migration and the inescapable otherness of any migrant as a person of different experience and origin.

This immanent otherness of the nomad (even if the nomad formally belongs to the same anthropological type, culture, or class as the recipient group) relativizes the panic of migrantophobia that, in the past decade, swept over not only problem-ridden post-Soviet societies but also more stable and prosperous societies in Europe and the United States. In a multicultural milieu, migrants are more noticeable and it is easier to identify them as “others” on the basis of cultural difference, but this is only a secondary (although the most obvious) characteristic of their otherness. The nomad terrifies the sedentary society of “ours” above all by the fact of his or her being a stranger, and this structural otherness is projected onto the figure of the nomad in search of their monstrous differences from the locals. And what if programming jobs in the United States were occupied by the Brits rather than Indians? What if Russian migrants arrived mainly not from Central Asia but from Belarus? And what if the Paris banlieues were occupied by welfare recipients from Quebec rather than from the Maghreb? Would the panic of migrantophobia be milder, and the sense of the aliens’ otherness less striking? It may well be so, but it also may be that the conflict would simply be recoded onto the plane of social and class differences, as happened in the early twentieth century. As we know from experience, recoding the conflict with the “other” in these terms certainly does not contribute to softening the mores …

The problem is that colonialism as a permanent process of asymmetrical interaction of different human collectives persistently re-creates the situation of contact with others. While negating some differences, it creates others by the very fact of physically moving the carriers of new universal culture to a new territory. The Virgin Lands campaign helped to create a more inclusive and homogeneous Soviet social identity in Northern Kazakhstan but, at the same time, it established the foundations for new divisions and differences between “nomadic” Russian arrivals and local “sedimentary” Kazakhs. Colonization is impossible without nomadism, without physical resettlement of carriers of different experiences, although we can imagine nomadism without “colonization” (when those who arrive remain in the ghetto of self-isolation). In the imperial situation, otherness and inequality are the norm, and thus colonization by new arrivals can lead to protest and aggression, but not to panic. No one was shocked when Caucasian mountaineers raided a Cossack settlement (or Cossacks raided an aul); no one was surprised by the diversity of the crowd of migrants in the cities. A postimperial national state is built upon the myth of cultural homogeneity and therefore has no developed cognitive apparatus and social practices of operating differences. Internal colonization (and, even more so, migration from different cultures) will be ignored until it reaches a certain critical mass of conflicts regarding the importation of social experience of varying degrees of otherness by the “nomads.” “Suddenly” it will become impossible to widen the norm of the nation-state’s homogeneous cultural code any further, to incorporate new cultural borrowings and pretend that they have all been a part of the local culture.

Participants in the forum assembled by Serguei Alex. Oushakine de-monstrate that nomadism is immanent for modern society. It is the drama of modernity that this society is inhabited not by ideal “Mercurians” but by regular people, some of whom perform the role of nomads, colonists without aspirations to hegemony. How this collision ought to be resolved today by overcoming migrantophobia is a separate discussion. The participants in the forum should be commended for normalizing the very problem of the encounter with internal or external “nomadism”.

Editors of Ab Imperio:
I. Gerasimov
S. Glebov
A. Kaplunovski
M. Mogilner
A. Semyonov




Structures and Cultures of Diversity: Nomadism as Colonialism without a Metropole (E&R)

Pekka Hämäläinen
The Comanche Empire. Introduction: Reversed Colonialism (R)

Serguei Oushakine
Guest Editor’s Introduction to the Forum. Traveling People: Nomadism Today (R)


Molly Brunson
Wandering Greeks: How Repin Discovers the People (E)

Mikhail Rozhanskii
Towards the Gleaming Dawn: Looking for the Real (R)

Emil Nasritdinov
Spiritual Nomadism and Central Asian Tablighi Travelers (E)

Anya Bernstein
On Body-Crossing: Interbody Movement in Eurasian Buddhism (E)

Zhanna Kormina
Nomadic Orthodoxy: On New Forms of Religious Life in Contemporary Russia (R)


Michael Kunichika
“The Scythians Were Here...”: On Nomadic Archaeology, Modernist Form, and Early Soviet Modernity (E)

Aleksei Popov
“We Are Looking for Something We Haven’t Lost”: Soviet “Savages” in Search of Their Place Under the Sun (R)

Aimar Ventsel
Entrapping History in Space: On Tuundra and Its Masters (R)

Maxim Matusevich
Expanding the Boundaries of the Black Atlantic: African Students as Soviet Moderns (E)

Marina Mikhaylova
A Springboard to a Wider World: Reactive Nationalism as an Ideology of Survival (E)


Stephen M. Norris
Nomadic Nationhood: Cinema, Nationhood, and Remembrance in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan (E)

Melanie Krebs
From a Real Home to a Nation’s Brand: On Stationary and Traveling Yurts (E)

Piers Vitebsky
Wild Tungus and the Spirits of Places (E)

Olga Burenina-Petrova
Circus: A Culture on Wheels (R)


Laurie Manchester, Holy Fathers, Secular Sons: Clergy, Intelligentsia, and the Modern Self in Revolutionary Russia (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2008). 304 pp . ISBN : 978-087-580-380-7 (hardback edition).

Rustam Matusevich
Were There Popovichi? (R)

Alexander Sorochan
Popovichi as Cultural Text and Biography (R)

Laurie Manchester
An Answer to My Critics, or the Confessions of an Unrepentant Interdisciplinarian (E)


Vitalii Ananiev (R)
Simon J. Knell, Peter Aronsson, Arne Bugge Amundsen, Amy Jane Barnes, Stuart Burch, Jennifer Carter, Viviane Gosselin, Sarah A. Hughes and Alan Kirwan (Eds.), National Museums. New Studies from Around the World (London; New York: Routledge, 2011). 504 pp.

Sharyl Corrado (E)
Ilya Vinkovetsky, Russian America: An Overseas Colony of a Continental Empire, 1804–1867 (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 2011). xiii + 258 pp. ISBN: 978-0-19-539128-2.

Marianna Mouravieva (R)
Andrew A. Gentes, Exile to Siberia, 1590–1822 (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). 288 pp. Name Index, Subject Index. ISBN: 978-0-230-53693-7.

Krista Sigler (E)
M. M. Leonov. Salon V. P. Meshcherskogo: Patronat i posrednichestvov Rossii rubezha ХIХ–ХХ vv. Samara: Izdatelstvo Samarskogo nauchnogo centra RAN, 2009. 388 s. ISBN: 978-5-93424-411-9.

Anton Kotenko (R)
P. Adelsgruber, L. Cohen, B. Kuzmany. Getrennt doch verbunden. Grenzstädte zwischen Österreich und Russland 1772–1918. Wien: Böhlau Verlag, 2011. 316 S. ISBN: 978-3-205-78625-2.

Polina Golovatina-Mora (R)
Börris Kuzmany. Brody. Eine galizische Grenzstadt im langen 19. Jahrhundert. Wien, Köln, Weimar: Böhlau Verlag, 2011. 448 S. ISBN: 978-3-205-78763-1.

Olaf Mertelsmann (R)
Šarūnas Liekis, 1939 – the Year that Changed Everything in Lithuania’s History (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2010). 386 pp., ills. Bibliography, Index. ISBN: 978-90-420-2763-3;
David J. Smith, David J. Galbreath, Geoffrey Swain (Eds.), From Recognition to Restoration: Latvia’s History as a Nation State (Am¬sterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2010). 174 pp., ills. ISBN: 978-90- 420-3099-2.

Oxana Ostapchuk (R)
Harvard Ukrainian Studies, vol. 29, no. 1-4, 2007 (2011): Ukrainian Philology and Linguistics in the Twenty-First Century. Edited by Michael S. Flier. ISSN: 0363-0570.

Aleksandr Chashchukhin (R)
E. Tomas Yuing. Uchitelia epokhi stalinizma: vlast, politika i zhizn shkoly 1930-ch. Moskva: Rossiiskaia politicheskaia encikolpediia (ROSSPEN); Fond “Prezidentskii centr B. N. Elcina”, 2011. 359 s. ISBN: 978-5-8243-1529-5.

Danielle Morrissette (E)
Yulia Gradskova, Soviet People with Female Bodies: Performing Beauty and Maternity in Soviet Russia in the Mid 1930–1960s (Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2007). 347 pp. ISBN: 978-91-85445-72-1.

Daria Dimke (R)
K. Shlegel. Terror i mechta. Moskva 1937 / Per. s nem. V. A. Brun-Cekhovskogo. Moskva: Rossiiskaia politicheskaia encikolpediia (ROSSPEN); Fond “Prezidentskii centr B. N. Elcina”, 2011. 742 s. ISBN: 978-5-8243-1530-1.

Gayane Shagoyan (R)
Arpenik Aleksanian. Sibirskii dnevnik 1949–1954 gg. Erevan: Izdatelstvo “Gitutiun” NAN RA, 2007. 408 s. (Antologiia pamiati. Vyp. 1). ISBN: 978-5-8080-0703-1.

Irina Kotkina (R)
Maria Cizmic, Performing Pain. Music and Trauma in Eastern Eu¬rope (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2012). 337 pp. Bibliography, Index. ISBN: 978-0-253-34907-1;
Michael Kurz, Sofia Gubaidulina. A Biography, Trans. Christoph K. Lohmann and ed. by Malcolm Hamrick Brown (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2007). 233pp. Bibliography, Index. ISBN: 978-0-19-973460-3.

Iuliia Skubytska (R)
A. A. Vaskin, Iu. I. Nazarenko. Stalinisie neboskreby. Ot Dvorca sovetov k vysotnym zdaniiam. Moskva: Sputnik+, 2011; B. Erofalov-Pilipchak. Arkhitektura sovetskogo Kieva. Kiev: Izdatelskii dom A+S, 2010. 640 s., ill. ISBN: 978-966-8613-53-1.

Mikhail Nemtsev (R)
V. Tolstykh. My byli. Sovetskii chelovek kak on est. Moskva: Kulturnaia revoliuciia, 2008. 768 s. ISBN: 978-5-250-06046-2.

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