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Empires: Domination, Collaboration, and Resistance

About the Project

(2012 - 15)

Even as empires have been ushered out the door by democratic revolutions, declarations of universal rights of self-determination, and announcements about the end of history, they keep creeping back onto the global political stage.  It's not surprising that they continue to be the subject of scholarly scrutiny. Whether the focus is land empires, overseas colonial empires, informal empires, or hegemonic interstate relations, scholars from a variety of disciplines have probed common underlying themes: motives of expansionists; mechanisms of rulership, including collaboration among core and peripheral elites; resistance to empire builders that leads to repression, accommodation, and modification of ruling strategies, and the costs and benefits of empires, at both the core and at the periphery. 

The research community on Empires: Domination, Collaboration and Resistance, first funded by PIIRS in spring 2012,  will frame its interdisciplinary probing of the dynamics of empires on the interrelated themes of domination, collaboration, and resistance.

  • Domination and "Repertoires of Power." Empires at their simplest involve rule of one polity over another polity or people.  As such, creating empires has always led to domination by some over others.  How this domination is structured, however has varied enormously, anywhere from tight and rigid hierarchies to loosely organized pluralistic structures. A scholarly examination of the repertoires of power – not only coercive, but also economic, ideological, and literary -- used to build and sustain empires is bound to prove deeply revealing of the nature of any given empire: motives, hopes, and ambitions of the rulers; mechanisms of rule; resistance to or acceptance of imperial rule; and the impact of imperial rule on the ruled.
  • Collaboration as a Mechanism for Sustaining Empires. While domination is a core aspect of empires, over time most empire builders settle down to rule by establishing collaborative links with peripheral elites.  These collaborative links may be more or less reciprocal.  Students of direct versus indirect forms of colonial empires have long understood these variations.  The process of collaboration as a mechanism of sustaining empires is nevertheless understudied, especially in the case of informal empires; comprador elites are neither heroic figures from the standpoint of metropolitan scholarship on empires, nor are they much loved by a variety of nationalists.  As a research community we hope to investigate further the process of collaboration that sustains empires.  
  • Resistance as Constitutive of Empire. The research community is also interested in exploring processes of resistance to empires -- the flip side of their domination.  The study of resistance within empires tends to focus either on the early phases of  conquest, when resistance is often suppressed by superior force, or on the tail-end of the imperial experience, when, for instance, nationalists topple a wobbly system and help give rise to a new nation-state.  According to this conventional plotline, resistance is often expressed in the language of nationalism, sovereignty, and the rights of self-determination.  This conventional focus is clearly important.  What distinguishes the focus of this group, however, is its concern with resistance throughout the imperial experience, as constitutive of it – not something that comes with the initial or final chapters of imperial formations.   
As a PIIRS research community, the group receives up to $750,000 over three years to support research, course development, and conferences. Fall 2012 will see the first round of activities generated by the community.
For more information contact Jayne Bialkowski, program manager.




Jeremy Adelman is Walter Samuel Carpenter III Professor in Spanish Civilization and Culture, professor of history, director of the Council for International Teaching and Research, and chair of the Fund for Canadian Studies. He is interested in the history of Latin America in comparative and world contexts with a focuse on economic, legal, and political transformations. Adelman’s books include, as coauthor, Worlds Together, Worlds Apart  (2011), a history of the world from the beginning of humankind; and as author, Sovereignty and Revolution in the Iberian Atlantic (2006); Republic of Capital: Buenos Aires and the Legal Transformation of the New World (1999);  and Frontier Development: Land, Labour, and Capital on the Wheatlands of Argentina and Canada (1994).  His newest book, The Worldly Philosopher: Albert O. Hirschman. An Intellectual Journey through the Twentieth Century, was published in 2013. Adelman's current  book projects are "Latin America: A Global History" and a study of Latin American social scientists from the Great Depression to the present. Ph.D. Oxford University.

John Ikenberry

G. John Ikenberry is Albert G. Milbank Professor of Politics and International Affairs and codirector of both the Center for International Security Studies and the Princeton Project on National Security, a collaborative multiyear project examining the changing character of America’s international security environment. His research focuses on international relations and US foreign policy. A prolific author and editor, Ikenberry’s most recent book, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order, was published in 2011 and the award-winning After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars, was published in 2001.Among many activities, Ikenberry has served on an advisory group at the State Department and on the Council of Foreign Relations’ Henry Kissinger-Lawrence Summers Commission on the Future of Transatlantic Relations. He is on the editorial board of World Politics and is coeditor of International Relations of the Asia Pacific, a Japanese journal of international relations. Ph.D. University of Chicago.

Atul Kohli

Atul Kohli is David K. E. Bruce Professor of International Affairs, a professor of politics and international affairs, chair of the World Politics editorial board, and codirector of the Project on Democracy and Development. His principal research interests are in the area of comparative political economy with a focus on the developing countries.  A prolific author and editor, Kohli’s books include Poverty Amid Plenty in the New India (2012); Democracy and Development in India: From Socialism to Pro-Business (2010); and State-Directed Development: Political Power and Industrialization in the Global Periphery (2004). Among his many activities, Kohli has served as cochair and vice chair of the American Political Science Association. His current research investigates imperialism and the developing world. Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley.


Molly Greene
Molly Greene   is a professor of history and Hellenic studies and an associate chair in the Department of History. She studies the history of the Mediterranean basin, the Ottoman empire, and the Greek world. Her interests include the social and economic history of the Ottoman empire, the experience of Greeks under Ottoman rule, Mediterranean piracy, and the institution of the market.  Her books include A Shared World: Christians and Muslims in the Early Modern Mediterranean (2000) and Catholic Corsairs and Greek Merchants: A Maritime History of the Mediterranean, 1450–1700 (2010). Greene is currently working on a history of the Greeks and the Greek world under Ottoman rule for a multivolume series to be published by Edinburg University Press. Ph.D.  Princeton University.
Nick Nesbitt

Nick Nesbitt is a professor and chair of the Department of French and Italian. His teaching and research interests include Haitian, French-Caribbean, and African studies; postcolonial and critical theory; political philosophy; and African diasporic music and cinema. His work in francophone studies focuses on the intellectual history of the black Atlantic world.  Nesbitt’s books include, as author, Universal Emancipation: The Haitian Revolution and the Radical Enlightenment (2008) and Voicing Memory: History and Subjectivity in French Caribbean Literature (2003), and, as editor or coeditor, Toussaint Louverture: The Haitian Revolution (2008) and Sounding the Virtual: Gilles Deleuze and the Philosophy of Music (2010). His most recent book, forthcoming from University of Liverpool Press, is entitled Caribbean Critique: Antillean Critical Theory from Toussaint to Glissant.  Ph.D. Harvard University.

Rachel Price

Rachel Price is an assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese languages and cultures. Her research focuses on Latin American, circum-Atlantic, and Cuban literature and culture; media and literature; and comparative imperial histories. Her book manuscript, The Object of the Atlantic: Concretude 1868–1968, about the emergence of a postromantic aesthetics of concretude in Brazil, Cuba, and Spain in the wake of changes in empire and capitalism in the 1890s, is under review.  Ph.D. Duke University.

Michael Reynolds

Michael A. Reynolds is an  associate professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies, where he teaches courses on the Middle East and Eurasia, comparative history, war and politics, secularism, and the Caucasus. He is the author of Shattering Empires: The Clash and Collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empires, 1908-1918 (2011), cowinner of the American Historical Association’s George Louis Beer Prize for international history. He is currently at work on a book on the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the first republic in the Muslim world, and its origins in the intellectual, cultural, social, and geopolitical interstices of empire. Ph.D. Princeton University.


Alexis Dudden (Visiting Research Scholar, Research Community on Empires: Domination, Collaboration, and Resistance; September 2013 – June 2014). Dudden is a professor of history at the University of Connecticut and a leading scholar of Japanese imperialism in Asia. Her first book, Japan’s Colonization of Korea: Discourse and Power (2005), analyzes the place of international law in Japan’s colonizing endeavors in Korea. Her second book, Troubled Apologies among Japan, Korea, and the United States (2008), examines overlapping narratives of political apology and apologetic history among these three countries from 1945 through the present. Dudden’s current project examines the modern history of Japan’s territorial disputes involving several groups of islands around the country’s main islands. Ph.D. University of Chicago.

Matthew Erie (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Research Community on Empires: Domination, Collaboration, and Resistance; September 2013 – June 2014). Erie is a legal anthropologist whose work examines the relationship between China and Islam, particularly from the late imperial period to that of the contemporary post-socialist nation-state. He has conducted ethnographic research in northwestern China since 2005. His forthcoming book, The Prophet and the Party: Shari'a, Islam, and China, based on his dissertation, describes the practice of shari'a by Chinese Muslims. Additional on-going projects include ethnographic studies of urbanization and its externalities among Muslim minorities and a book-length study of Chinese popular Sufism as an alternative epistemology to statist rationalism. Ph.D. Cornell University, J.D. University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Leah Feldman (Visiting Research Associate, Research Community on Empires: Domination, Collaboration, and Resistance; September 2013 –June 2014). Feldman recently completed her doctorate in comparative literature. Her dissertation explores Russian imperial and early Soviet orientalist literature and its responses in the works of the Muslim writers and thinkers of the Caucasus. Her current project investigates performative practices with a focus on supranational exchanges in orientalist and anticolonial narratives in the literary works, art, and film of the Caucasus. Tracing translations and intertextual engagements across Western Europe, Russia, and the Caucasus, Feldman’s work offers an alternative version of Europe and the Muslim world from the vantage point of cosmopolitan centers in the Russian empire. Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles.

Inderjeet Parmar (Visiting Research Scholar, Empires: Domination, Collaboration, and Resistance; September 2013 – June 2014). Parmar is a professor of international politics at City University London and chair of the UK-based Arts and Humanities Research Council Obama Research Network. His research interests include the history, politics, and sociology of Anglo-American foreign policy elites of the past 100 years. His current project focuses on imperial, racial, religious and strategic discourses, debates and decision making in Anglo-American wars from Korea to the War on Terror. His most recent book, Foundations of the American Century: The Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller Foundations in the Rise of American Power, was published in 2012. Ph.D. University of Manchester.

Workshops, Conferences, and Other Events

December 6, 2013
1:30-4:30 p.m.
216 Aaron Burr Hall
January 17, 2014
10:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
216 Aaron Burr Hall

March 28, 2014
Empire and the Social Sciences
9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
219 Aaron Burr Hall

Click here for symposium program

Lunchtime Talks and Public Lectures

Spring 2014

Throughout AY 2013 - 14, the research community on Empires will host a series of public lectures with visiting scholars.

Thursday,  January  16, 2014

Constructing an Integrated World View: The Roles of Analytics, Psychology, and Creativity
Ketan Patel, Greater Pacific Capital, UK
4:30 p.m.
216 Aaron Burr Hall

Monday, February 17, 2014
Discovering Empire in China
Mark C. Elliott, Harvard University
4:30 p.m.
219 Aaron Burr Hall

Thursday, March 27, 2014
Intellectuals and Empire
Pankaj Mishra, essayist and novelist
4:30 p.m.
Bowl 2, Robertson Hall

Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Jurgen Osterhammel, University of Konstanz



Fall 2013

216 Aaron Burr Hall, Noon

September 25, 2013 
"The Ties that Bind: Defining Forced Labor in Late Colonial Mozambique" - Zachary Kagan-Guthrie, History (Commentator: Nikhil Menon, History)

October 16, 2013 
"We Wish to Talk for Ourselves': American Indians and the Soundscape of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition" - Joshua Garrett-Davis, History  (Commentator: Joppan George, History)

November 6, 2013 
"Grenville's Silver Hammer: Silver Stamps and a Reinterpretation of America's Founding Crisis" - Andrew Edwards, History (Commentator: Katlyn Carter, History)
November 20, 2013
"Mediated Empire: Japan's Opening and Closing of Colonial Taiwan's Gate into South China, 1895-1918" - Seiji Shirane, History (Commentator: Kalyani Ramnath, History)
December 4, 2013
"Of Many Guises: The Lives of Surveyors and their Plans in the Globalizing British Empire, 1763-1783" - Benjamin Sacks, History of Science (Commentator: Yanie Fecu, Comparative Literature)


Symposium on empire and the social sciences on March 28


Empires: Domination, Collaboration, and Resistance


Read the feature article on the Empires research community

Past Events


Read the feature article on the Empires research community