Dynamic, Organic Borders via Double Assimilation

The American Historical Review: “Europe: Early Modern and Modern". By Robert Kaiser, University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Francine Hirsch. Empire of Nations: Ethnographic Knowledge and the Making of the Soviet Union. (Culture and Society after Socialism.) Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 2005. Pp. xviii, 367. Cloth $59.95, paper $27.95.

Using the “census, map, museum" framing found in Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1983), as well as a Foucauldian approach to biopolitics and the art of governing (i.e. governmentality) in the production of knowledge, Hirsch investigates the construction and institutionalization of ethno-national identity categories in the USSR. Rather than study political elites and their pronouncements on the “national question," Hirsch focuses her attention on the anthropologists, geographers, and ethnographers involved in the discussions regarding the boundary formations around these identity categories as they were debated and reconfigured in censuses, on maps, and in museum exhibits from 1905 to 1941.

The brilliance of the work lies in the rich archival resources through which Hirsch reconstructs the story of ethnographic knowledge production as a technology of rule.(重新把民族誌知識的生產,作為一種統治的技術) She uncovers and explores the continuities and disjunctures between the prerevolutionary actors and institutions charged with the categorization of identity, and the specialists charged with the same tasks in the USSR during the 1920s and 1930s, as the latter worked toward the goal of what Hirsch defines as “double assimilation: the assimilation of a diverse population into nationality categories and, simultaneously, the assimilation of those nationally categorized groups into the Soviet state and society" (p. 14). Double assimilation, she argues, was an interactive process of identity construction that, through census, map, museum, and historical narrative strengthened Soviet rule. This is the first study to provide us with this kind of detailed information on the inner workings of how ethnographic knowledge was produced in the USSR as a set of cultural technologies of rule.(民族誌知識在 USSR 裡以一組統治的文化科技方式被生產、於內裡發揮作用的詳細資訊)

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