Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper, "Post-Imperial Possibilities: Eurasia, Eurafrica, Afroasia" (Princeton UP, 2023)


How can territory and peoples be organized? After the dissolution of empires, was the nation-state the only way to unite people politically, culturally, and economically? 

In Post-Imperial Possibilities: Eurasia, Eurafrica, Afroasia (Princeton UP, 2023), historians Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper examine three large-scale, transcontinental projects aimed at bringing together peoples of different regions to mitigate imperial legacies of inequality. Eurasia, Eurafrica, and Afroasia—in theory if not in practice—offered alternative routes out of empire. The theory of Eurasianism was developed after the collapse of imperial Russia by exiled intellectuals alienated by both Western imperialism and communism. Eurafrica began as a design for collaborative European exploitation of Africa but was transformed in the 1940s and 1950s into a project to include France’s African territories in plans for European integration. The Afroasian movement wanted to replace the vertical relationship of colonizer and colonized with a horizontal relationship among former colonial territories that could challenge both the communist and capitalist worlds. Both Eurafrica and Afroasia floundered, victims of old and new vested interests. But Eurasia revived in the 1990s, when Russian intellectuals turned the theory’s attack on Western hegemony into a recipe for the restoration of Russian imperial power. While both the system of purportedly sovereign states and the concentrated might of large economic and political institutions continue to frustrate projects to overcome inequities in welfare and power, Burbank and Cooper‘s study of political imagination explores wide-ranging concepts of social affiliation and obligation that emerged after empire and the reasons for their unlike destinies.

This is Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper second major scholarly collaboration. They previously co-authored Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference (Princeton University Press, 2010).

Frederick Cooper is Professor Emeritus of History at New York University. His research has focused on 20th-century Africa, empires, colonization and decolonization, and citizenship. Among his books are Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History (2005); Citizenship between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945-1960 (2014); Africa in the World: Capitalism, Empire, Nation-State (2014); Citizenship, Inequality, and Difference: Historical Perspectives (2018); and Africa since 1940: The Past of the Present (2nd ed., 2019).

Jane Burbank is Professor Emerita, New York University. Her areas of research are Russian political culture, law, and empire. Her works include Intelligentsia and Revolution: Russian Views of Bolshevism, 1917-1922 (1986); Russian Peasants Go to Court: Legal Culture in the Countryside, 1905-1917 (2004); Imperial Russia: New Histories for the Empire, edited with David L. Ransel. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998); Russian Empire: Space, People, Power, 1700-1930, edited with Mark von Hagen and Anatolyi Remnev (2007).

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Erika Monahan

Erika Monahan is the author of The Merchants of Siberia: Trade in Early Modern Eurasia (Cornell UP, 2016) and a 2023-2024 Alexander von Humboldt Fellow

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