- Migration and Mobility in the Modern Age: Refugees, Travelers, and Traffickers in Europe and Eurasia ed. by Anika Walke, Jan Musekamp, and Nicole Svobodny, and: Placing Empire: Travel and the Social Imagination in Imperial Japan by Kate McDonald
A common assertion in both of these volumes is that the study of human movement helps to bring historical processes into clearer focus. Traditional historical studies situated human societies and their national peoples as virtually static or in situ, something both of these volumes hope to correct within their respective realm of historical studies, namely Russia and Eastern and Central Europe and Japan. Human movement takes many forms in the modern age of world history and was often in alignment with imperialist ventures, whether in the form of the more permanent movements of people typically characterized as migration, or in the more temporary movements of tourists, travelers, migratory workers, smugglers, and others, which Anika Walke, Jan Musekamp, Nicole Svobodny, and other scholars in the first collection of research refer to as mobility. Migration and mobility, Walke contends, should be at the center of historical analysis of peoples from Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union because "imaginations of sedentism as the norm, either in the [End Page 399] past or in the present, are seriously flawed" (p. 1). In her compelling study of Japanese imperial travelers, Kate McDonald likewise argues for the importance of understanding travel as a key conduit of Japanese imperialism. Movement to colonized spaces by Japanese individuals was a critical process for the legitimation of the space, while also "presenting the colonies as spaces of exception to metropolitan political, economic, and social norms" (p. 5). Both of these studies provide a great deal of firsthand evidence of travelers and migrants venturing out far from their home space, which is undergirded in both cases by theoretical perspectives from migration studies and travel/tourist studies. Both books will be of interest to those in the broader field of travel, migration, and mobility in modern world history, and to those whose work focuses squarely on either Russian, Soviet, and Eastern bloc history, or Japanese imperial studies.
Migration and Mobility in the Modern Age includes studies from a range of scholarly disciplines (history, literature, and art history, among others), and historical evidence is provided in all chapters' contributions. Part 3 of the book focuses more on work from a literary perspective and will thus be excluded from this review essay for brevity's sake. Part 1, called "Locomotions: Ways of Moving," includes articles that address the role of evolving technologies in human movement. The first chapter by Jan Musekamp examines increasing mobility across Europe during the nineteenth century, from Eastern Europe and Russia to Paris, facilitated through developments such as road improvements resulting from the Napoleonic Wars (pp. 38–39) and the construction of railroads at mid-century in Central and Western Europe, which in part happened out of an interest in getting people to "visit foreign countries and thus raise their level of education" (p. 43). German economist Friedrich List envisioned railroads as a revolutionary technology that would help foster global peace, though as Musekamp finds this did not quite work the idealistic way which List imagined it could (p. 49). Nathaniel D. Wood's fascinating study of bicycles and automobiles as a reflection of Polish national development, or rather, underdevelopment, places the Polish experience with modes of transportation in a comparative framework. And Nicole Svobodny's piece on the Russian-Polish dancer Vaslav Nijinsky provides a fresh perspective on how mobility and movement was redefined in his personal diaries and offers a glimpse into how perceptions of one's own mobility can make for elucidating analysis.
The last chapter of this section, on Russian resorts in 1920s–1930s Manchuria, covers very similar literal and...