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An Empire of Others
Creating Ethnographic Knowledge in Imperial Russia and the USSR


Edited by Roland Cvetkovski and Alexis Hofmeister

Roland Cvetkovski is assistant professor at the Department of Eastern European History in Cologne
Alexis Hofmeister is research assistant at the Department of History, University of Basel

Ethnographers helped to perceive, to understand and also to shape imperial as well as Soviet Russia’s cultural diversity. This volume focuses on the contexts in which ethnographic knowledge was created. Usually, ethnographic findings were superseded by imperial discourse: Defining regions, connecting them with ethnic origins and conceiving national entities necessarily implied the mapping of political and historical hierarchies. But beyond these spatial conceptualizations the essays particularly address the specific conditions in which ethnographic knowledge appeared and changed. On the one hand, they turn to the several fields into which ethnographic knowledge poured and materialized, i.e., history, historiography, anthropology or ideology. On the other, they equally consider the impact of the specific formats, i.e., pictures, maps, atlases, lectures, songs, museums, and exhibitions, on academic as well as non-academic manifestations.

Contents: 1. Introduction: On the Making of Ethnographic Knowledge in Russia 2. Imperial Case Studies: Russian and British Ethnographic Theory Part I: Paradigms 3. Russian Ethnography as a Science: Truths Claimed, Trails Followed 4. Beyond, Against, and with Ethnography: Physical Anthropology as a Science of Russian Modernity 5. Ethnography, Marxism and Soviet Ideology 6. Ethnogenesis and Historiography: Historical Narratives for Central Asia, 1940s–1950s Part II: Representations 7. Symbols, Conventions and Practices: Visual Representation of Ethnographic Knowledge on Siberia in Early Modern Maps and Reports 8. Empire Complex: Arrangements in the Russian Ethnographic Museum, 1910 9. Learning about the Nation: Ethnographical Representations of Children, Representations of Ethnography for Children Part III: Peoples 10. Siberian Ruptures: Dilemmas of Ethnography in Imperial Situation 11. Concepts of Ukrainian Folklore and the Transition from Imperial Russia to Stalin’s Soviet Empire 12. No Love Affair: Ingush and Chechen Imperial Ethnographies 13. National Inventions: The Imperial Emancipation of the Karaites from Jewishness 14. List of Contributors

“The central contribution of this book is its detailed focus on the specific contexts that shaped the creation of ethnographic knowledge in modern Russia. When read together, the essays offer a revealing archeology of the discipline, showing readers how tsarist and Soviet ethnographers simultaneously defined both their subjects and their own expertise over a roughly three-hundred year period.”—Willard Sunderland, University of Cincinnati

414 pages
978-615-5225-76-5 cloth $75.00 / €57.00 / £47.00

"A worthy contribution to the recent literature on understandings of ethnic diversity within imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. The chapters, written by British, German, and Russian scholars, vary considerably in their content and interpretations but raise important questions and suggest new fi elds for productive investigation...
The volume accurately reflects the range of ideas and approaches evident within the current historiography. For this reason, if nothing else, it is a welcome addition to the literature on the history of Russian ethnography." - Slavic Review

"Russian ethnography, Alexis Hofmeister argues, was particularistic in its approach, carefully considering the variety of peoples in the empire’s continental expanse, while the British surveyed their overseas empire in an attempt to develop a universal theory of ethnic difference. If the British looked for unity in diversity, the Russians explored the diversity without an overriding theory to explain variation.
The essays in this rich, coherent, insightful volume reach down into the particular modalities that ethnographers used to describe and analyze the subjects of the empire. Drawings, photographs, costume, children’s games, folklore, and museums were among the visual representations that confirmed the distinctions between peoples.
Ethnography, like history, was foundational in the making of nations. In the imperial settings of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russia and the Soviet Union the attention to diversity aided those intellectuals who saw in the Volk the base for a nation. The study of ethnogenesis became central to the location of specific peoples in specific geographies and endowed them with ancient pedigrees in purported 'homelands.' This volume introduces interested readers to the complexities and particularities of the ways in which science constructed the building blocks for the nation-states that emerged from the disintegration of the Soviet Union." - Journal of Modern History

"In sum, this fine collection of articles brings fresh insights into the political aspects of Russia’s Volkskunde. The authors’ positions range from attempts to complicate the picture and go beyond established views on the colonial character of knowledge production to defending Sonderweg conceptions of Russian history. The authors of the chapters are known for prior studies on the history of ethnography and anthropology in Russia, come from different academic traditions, and differ in their takes on the methodological framework suggested by the editors...The goal of the editors is by far not to accuse anyone, but rather to put under scrutiny almost three centuries of describing, mapping, and representing imperial peoples in Russia." - Ab Imperio

"Der von Roland Cvetkovski und Alexis Hofmeister herausgegebene Sammelband reiht sich in aktuelle Forschungen zur Imperien- und Wissensgeschichte ein und verfolgt mit seinen zwölf Beiträgen das Ziel, die Herstellung und Zirkulation ethnographischen Wissens im Zarenreich und der Sowjetunion zu untersuchen sowie die daran beteiligten Wissensakteure zu identifizieren.
Mit dem vorliegenden Sammelband ist den beiden Herausgebern ein überaus lesenswerter Einblick in die Geschichte der ethnographischen Wissensproduktion in Russland gelungen. Der wissensgeschichtliche Ansatz liefert neue Einsichten in die Geschichte Russlands als Vielvölkerstaat und lenkt den Blick vor allem auf die Konstruiertheit von Wissen und die Bedeutung der Akteure in Bezug auf die Auswahl ihrer epistemischen Objekte und die Akzeptanz von Forschungshypothesen." - H-Soz-Kult