Extracting the Subaltern Empire: Trends and Problems in Western Knowledge Production on Post-Socialist Russia

Authors: Nicholas Parlato*, University of Northern British Columbia
Topics: Russia, Political Geography, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: Orientalism, Knowledge Production, Centre-Periphery Relations, Geographies of Power, Moral Geographies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Mid-City, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Between Russia and the US, symptoms of a new Cold War have made themselves apparent through territorial annexations, sanctions, the Syrian war, and McCarthy-esque inquiries. The East/West divide has reasserted its conceptual potency, especially in the efforts by neo-imperial states to produce ideologically committed political subjects. It has revitalized dormant Orientalist discourses, neocolonial geographies, and politicized “others” on both sides of the New Iron Curtain, which, building on the military-economic competition of its conceptual predecessor, is defined by new strategic materialities, technologies, and ideologies on the field of mental warfare. Framing US foreign policy in neo-imperial terms, I will interrogate the role of Western discourse in simultaneously criticizing and legitimizing Vladimir Putin, propping up US foreign policy, and marginalizing “others” in Russian society. How do extractive, self-serving “Western” narratives of “Eastern” authoritarianism and backwardness reinforce power imbalances in Russia’s cultural and geographic peripheries? With language, media, and truth subjected to an unprecedented scale of propagandization and polyvocality, this presentation seeks to raise the specter of the post-Socialist subaltern, whose struggles in “closed” regimes are erased in the popular hegemonic discourses of Great Powers politics.

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