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15 Ab Imperio, 3/2009 From the EDITORS During the decade of Ab Imperio’s existence the journal’s main focus has been “the individual in time,” or, more precisely, an anthropological reflection on life experience in a culturally divided space. This emphasis on anthropological method was especially relevant in the early stages of new imperial history studies as it helped overcome the temptation to see empire exclusively from the top and as a totality through the homogenizing prism of state-generated paper trail preserved in government archives. The anthropological view also complicated the seemingly obvious interpretation of imperial diversity in terms of a clear and unambiguous grid of ethnic or national divisions. The focus on biography presupposed a “view from below ,” that is, a micro-historical and cultural historical approach, and allowed the problem of imperial diversity to be formulated in a new light. Today it is obvious that using the biographical mode to study imperial society we can see how social knowledge and the experience of its practical application travel from one imperial context to another. In application to the Soviet period, individual experience and our reflection upon it help us to understand Soviet subjectivity and, ultimately, to decipher the very nature of the Soviet regime and its historical position vis-à-vis normative Western modernity. As does any complex social phenomenon, Homo Imperii exists at the intersection of individual life experience in the empire and the discourses that shaped, described, and scientifically studied it. In that sense, “human sciences” in the empire were not just a sign of inevitable modernity striving 16 From the Editors to rationalize and unify the social world. Faced with the task of classifying the individual in the irrationally and unevenly organized imperial space, human sciences reproduced imperial heterogeneity and unevenness, even if in a more rational and systematic way. At the end of the day, rationalization in empire means a new regrouping of diversity and not its liquidation. While the ideal modern empire of the future based on the scientific expertise of professional communities might have looked more rational, institutionalized, and efficient, that did not make it less complex and more monological than the earlier “archaic” empire. Homo Imperii was simultaneously raised as a patriotic citizen of the state and the carrier of a regional identity; s/he was seen as a rational subject of the Enlightenment and as the object of national discourses and archaic cultural projections; s/he was “discovered” by enlighteners and Orientalist scholars in the course of mapping the population of an interior university district (for instance, that of Kazan) and in the course of grand overseas expeditions to remote and alien colonized lands. As Elena Vishlenkova demonstrates in the archival section of this issue, the method of analysis and the position of the observer not only did not differ in the studies of interior provinces and remote territories but often were transferred from one type of expedition onto another. In the absence of ready strategies for a complex description of heterogeneity and the multilevel interior otherness in empire, Homo Imperii could be seen as a coherent phenomenon only through the effect of estrangement . Neither universalism of the Enlightenment, nor colonial dichotomies of domination and subjugation, or the Romantic view of organic national unity could unilaterally describe the experience of Homo Imperii. In this connection one is reminded ofAlfred Rieber’s metaphor of the sedimentary society, which in our case explains how the abovementioned discourses and projections of Homo Imperii could coexist. By the very fact of their coexistence they stimulated hybridity of scholarly thought and imagination. The article by Alice Conklin in the methodological section of the issue explores the production of colonial scholarship in interwar France and sets the tone for the conversation about “Maison des sciences de l’Homme.” Conklin demonstrates that in the imperial situation a colonial type of scholarly rhetoric and the institutionalization of knowledge could help to establish a new scholarly paradigm in the metropole and that scholarly capital acquired in the colonies could become an important resource for the nationalizing policy of the center. In the historical section, articles focusing on the Russian Empire and on an earlier period develop Conklin’s...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2164-9731
Print ISSN
2166-4072
Pages
pp. 15-18
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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