- Migration and Mobility in the Modern Age: Refugees, Travelers, and Traffickers in Europe and Euroasia ed. by Anika Walker, Jan Musekamp, and Nicole Svobodny
Literary and filmic representations of migration and exile from the former Eastern Bloc have increasingly been in the spotlight of recent scholarship with a focus mostly on the second half of the twentieth century, namely the Cold War and its aftermath. The current collection is a significant [End Page e-28] contribution to this emerging field through its emphasis on a historical approach that traces patterns of migration and mobility from the end of the eighteenth century to the present. Historical in scope, the volume brings together twelve chapters, which are divided in three interlinked thematic sections, that is, “Locomotions,” “Migrations,” and “Narrations.” These three subsections offer a comprehensive investigation of the “nexus between movement and distinct historical phenomena in Central and Eastern Europe and Russia” (5), and also foreground the multisided forms of mobility in the last two centuries in relation to their material and technological development, or their state rationale.
The volume documents the new means of transportation appearing in the late eighteenth century, as well as numerous practices of movement, their effects, and their representations across the region. More precisely, topics such as the development of transportation networks (Musekamp, Wood), artists’ cross-border productions (Winestein), women’s migration (Stauter-Halsted), a ballet dancer’s diary (Svobodny), evacuations during the Great Patriotic War (Siegelbaum and Moch), the building of the Baikal Amur Mainline (Ward), railroad vacations in Manchuria (Hsu), exiles’ Siberian narratives (Blake), the effects of technology on turn of the century exiled intellectuals (Murrav) the pitfalls of travel narratives about Polish–German connections (Gasyna), and the literary representations of un/belonging in the work of the current wave of Russian Jewish writers in Germany (Wanner) are judiciously examined and clearly positioned in their sociopolitical context. Written by literary scholars, historians, and area studies specialists, the essays reveal less known aspects about forms of mobility and also foreground their historical, cultural, and/or ideological underpinning. One common thread of the volume is how political, economic, and social changes have shaped the movement of ideas, people, and things from and across the region.
The introduction (Anika Walke) offers a very comprehensive and accessible historical overview of both the technological innovations and the social phenomena that have informed migration throughout the region in the last two centuries. At the same time, Walke places developments in the Eurasian region in dialogue with Western European and transatlantic processes and argues for the relevance of migration studies framework in the longue durée (7, 25). The first section, “Locomotions: Ways of Moving,” opens with Jan Musekamp’s fascinating chapter on nineteenth-century transportation innovations—developments in road building, stagecoach connections, and steamships. Drawing on both vast archival material and literary representations, Musekamp shows how late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century [End Page e-29] cross-border transportation innovations offered a blueprint for later railroad advances, traditionally seen as the major change. The appearance of new forms of mobility in Poland between 1885 and 1939 is next carefully documented by Nathaniel Wood. He presents an in-depth analysis of Polish dreams—their materialization or unfulfillment—with regard to the adoption of bicycles and automobiles. In chapter three, the diary of the internationally acclaimed Polish Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky is read by Nicole Svobodny, who regards it as a “sensory enactment of the concept of mobility” (84). Her discussion of Nijinsky’s historical context and her perceptive analysis of the intertextual connection with Leo Tolstoy’s Confession enables Svobodny to put forth a complex argument about movement as somatic experience, psychological exile, and the dancer’s concerns about climate change. The final chapter in this section, dedicated to the examination of early twentieth-century advertising and later literary representations of the Russian resorts in North Manchuria, reveals the dynamics of racial configurations in a less known postcolonial context. More...