Can Stateless Refugees be Colonizers? The Colonial Impulse among First-Wave Russian Emigres in Africa, China and South America

Laurie Manchester , Associate Professor of History,Arizona State University

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Post-colonial studies focus on the state as the driving force of colonialism. But why were many stateless first wave Russian émigrés writing ethnographic studies and fictional works about the local peoples they lived amongst in the colonial world? Why were they engaging in missionary work and teaching the Russian language to them? Questioning the assumption that the exile only lives in the past, this talk explores how the hundreds of thousands of Russian refugees living in Africa, China and South America attempted not only to preserve pre-revolutionary Russia within their own communities, but to convert indigenous peoples to join their new nation of Russian Abroad. This was a task émigrés in Europe, surrounded by "civilized" peoples assured of their alleged superiority over Russians, could not perform. The "new world" offered Russian émigrés the chance to gather knowledge for a future non-Bolshevik Russia, but it also provided fruitful ground for honing a Russian ethnicity entirely separate from the nationality Russians living in "corrupted" Soviet Russia might espouse. As the émigrés began to give up on the hope of ever going home, could they end their diaspora by claiming new territory as their homeland?

Laurie Manchester received her Ph.D. in history from Columbia University in 1995. Before joining the history department at Arizona State University in 2000, where she is currently an associate professor, she was a post-doctoral fellow at the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center, the Harriman Institute and the Davis Center for Russian Studies at Harvard University. She also taught as a visiting professor at Georgetown University and Boston College. She is the author of Holy Fathers, Secular Sons: Clergy, Intelligentsia, and the Modern Self in Revolutionary Russia (Harriman Institute Series, Northern Illinois University Press, 2008), which won the 2009 Vucinich Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies in any discipline of the humanities or social sciences. She is currently working on a book entitled The Colonial World through Russian Eyes that focuses on comparing how Russians in Africa, China and South America regarded indigenous and Western peoples when they were subjects of Imperial Russia, and when they were stateless refugees after 1917.

Friday, May 20, 2011 | 12:00 pm — 1:30 pm
Encina Hall West - Room 208