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Conference “Picturing Russian Empire” (Tyumen, June 28–29, 2019)

Picturing Russian Empire

University of Tyumen
June 28–29, 2019

This conference, sponsored by the University of Tyumen, and the subsequent volume, are intended to produce a multidisciplinary examination of the connections between empire and the visual in the long history of the Rus’, Russian, Soviet, and post-Soviet territories.

In 2008, Picturing Russia: Explorations in Visual Culture, a volume of short essays brought to the fore ways that analysis of the visual could both expand and change perspectives on Russia history. That book touched on imperial visualities primarily from a Russian point of view. In the present project we want to offer the broadest possible perspectives on visual experiences of empire in Russian and former Soviet space. We invite scholars working in any field of study to engage in a discussion of visuality, visual media, and visual methodologies in this region.

We especially welcome proposals from scholars working in former Soviet space and scholars whose research explores perspectives on empire from outside the capitals or traditional centers of power.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

• How did the visual complicate the political binaries of empire?
• How was imperial power established, mediated, maintained or subverted by the visual?
• How was indigenous authority established, mediated, maintained or subverted by the visual?
• How did the visual mediate between forms of imperial authority and indigenous authority?
• How did the visual represent the complexities of imperial experience?
• Does the visual allow us to understand empire differently than textural sources and if so how?
• What does the visual give us in terms of emotional investment, sensory knowledge?
• Is the imperial visual always Orientalist?
• Is the imperial visual always a weapon of power?
• What were the conscious theories of the visual that motivated the visual production of empire?
• Can we access viewers’ responses to the imperial visual?
• To what extent is visuality distinct from or intertwined with the other senses?
• How does studying the visual contribute to understanding or challenging Russia’s supposed “logocentrism”?
• How can it contribute to debates about modernity’s purported “occularcentrism”?
• Do these concepts – occularcentrism and logocentrism – contribute in any way to our understandings of the premodern or the religious spheres in the history of empire?
• How did the visual shape imperial geographical knowledge?
• How the visual language of the empire changed over time and space?
• Was the empire united in terms of visual? Local, regional and general visual metaphors of empire: how did it work?

Our goal is to produce a sequel to “Picturing Russia” that replicates its structure as an accessible text for students and a compendium of innovative theoretical and methodological contributions/advances to historical approaches to the visual.

Proposals should focus on one (or a very limited number) of visual objects and should foreground discussion of the stakes of the visual. Abstracts should be no more than 250 words and should be submitted in English. They should specify the visual medium or object under examination and the theoretical or methodological questions under discussion.

Proposals should be sent Sergei A. Kozlov via e-mail: by October 1st, 2018.

We will have a limited number of slots for the conference, but we anticipate that the book will be able to include a larger number of contributors. Essays for the volume will be very short, no longer than 3000 words, and should include no more than three images.


Valerie A. Kivelson, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
Sergei A. Kozlov, University of Tyumen
Joan Neuberger, University of Texas at Austin


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