College Papers

Imperial between imperialism and colonialism. Carole McGranahan’s argues

Imperial formations is
a compilation of essays that disagree with the assumption that late nineteenth
and early twentieth century European colonialism is the model of imperialism. The
authors examine imperial governance, the imperial state, and forms of sovereignty
in non-European empires. By looking at the Ottoman, Russian, Chinese, Spanish,
and Japanese empires, the authors challenge the traditional framework of
colonial studies. The authors of this book view “empires not as things but as
processes, as states of being, becoming, and deferral” (xii). They are more
concerned with looking at what empires did and do, than what they are. These
processes are influenced by appropriation, displacement, dislocation,
dispersion, and moving categories and populations. All the authors’
perspectives “share emphasis on how knowledge is organized and conceived,” a
Foucault idea of the relationship between power and knowledge.

The
book is divided into three thematic parts. Part one, ‘The production and
protection of difference,’ examines the power relationship between empires and
indigenous communities, as well as the structures that manage and incorporate
varying cultures. Ussama Makdisi demonstrates that sultan leaders of the multiethnic
Ottoman empire chose religious tolerance and political self-autonomy to manage its
subordinates. By looking at US and Ottoman history, Makdisi explores how “the
first American missionary assault on the Ottoman empire represented a collision
of manifestly different and complex imperial formations, racially articulated
in an expansionist American republic and religiously elaborated in the Ottoman
domains” (pg. 45). Jane Burbank’s focus is on the “configuration of rights in
imperial Russia,” and how those rights of citizens were implemented by the
rulers and what the significances of the “imperial rights regime” were (pg.
78). She emphasizes the complexity of the Tsarist empire and argues that the
‘imperial rights regime’ was a social contract that gave local people
opportunities to shape power through mechanisms of legal pluralism, like
marriage. Adeeb Khalid examines “what the Soviet case can contribute to the
study of imperial formations” and argues that “while tsarist Central Asia was
quite straightforwardly a colonial possession, Soviet Central Asia was quite
different” (pg. 115). He also discusses the Soviet universalist concept of
citizenship that was largely free of ethnic or racial discrimination. Peter Perdue
argues “for the productive use of comparisons along a broad range of imperial formations
including those of Spain, Russia, China, and Japan” when examining the late
Qing (pg. 141).

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Part
two, ‘Rethinking boundaries, imaginaries, empires,’ discusses the relationships
between imperialism and colonialism. Carole McGranahan’s argues that by looking
at empire “through the lived realities of people in polities and relationships
not always considered imperial offers unexpected but invaluable insights for
theorizing empire” (pg. 173). She defines the term ‘out of bounds’ as a “means
for addressing extraperipheral spaces and roles they play in imperial
imagination” (pg. 173). In other words, the empire did not end at the
geographic boundary. Prasenjit Duara argues that Manchukuo was the origin of
‘new imperialism,’ “an imperialism rooted in the historical circumstances of
the U.S., Soviet Union, and Japan rather than in those of the older European
colonial powers” (pg. 211). She contends the USSR emulated what the Japanese
practiced in East Asia before 1945. This became the model for both Cold War
regimes of the USSR and the United States. Fernando Coronil’s essay is a “response
to a timely invitation to look at empire beyond its usual European location, to
explore its varied historical empires, and to discern its usefulness as an
analytical construct for engaging contemporary politics” (pg. 241). He does
this through examining the relationship between the U.S. and Latin America, as
well as the role of capitalism in imperialism.

Part
three, ‘New genealogies of the imperial state,’ is focused on Europe and its
modernity. Irene Silverblatt discusses sixteenth century Spanish colonialist origins
of bureaucracy and ‘state fetishism’ (pg. 285). Inspired by Hannah Arendt’s
racial thinking and Peruvian Inquisition examples, Silverblatt uses them as her
main theoretical approach. The analysis is heavily Foucault inspired,
especially when she examines the indigenous population’s relationship with state
power. Nicholas Dirks wants to “write empire back into the history of the West,
where it has played such a foundational and constitutive role” (p. 338). He
does this by suggesting that the presence of the East India Company disrupted
British theorists’ own conceptions of national sovereignty. Edmund Burke
reinterprets the impeachment of Warren Hastings and reveals an emergence of the
‘second British empire’ and modern notions of sovereignty. The final chapter
belongs to Frederick Cooper who rejects the standard account of French imperial
history. During the Napoleon era, the colonized were able to claim equality
through expanded notions of citizenship. His chapter from the Canvas reading
brings up similar points to his chapter in Imperial
Formations. In the article ‘States, Empires, and Political Imagination,’
Cooper argues “that both the way the leaders of empire-states thought about
their polity and the forms in which political contestation took place reflect
‘thinking like an empire’ (pg. 154). He discusses the ways that France,
Britain, and other states incorporated and differentiated their empires.

These
essays offer new ways to view empire and contributes to the field of imperial
histories through their aim to rethink how empires and imperialist notions developed.
These authors wanted to “push our clarifications of imperial formations outside
and inside of Europe” by studying other
empires like the Ottoman or Japanese (pg. 18). The book’s strength is found in this
approach, as well as its diversity in arguments among the essays that helps to change
the traditional understanding of empires.