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New Imperial History And The Challenges Of Empire

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Chapter Summary

In 1917, Viktor Shklovsky, a founding father of the Russian Formalist tradition of literary criticism, coined the concept of "defamiliarization", which describes the process of enhancement of the perception of an object's deeper meaning by alienating it and making the object look strange, unfamiliar, or unpredictable. Analyzing a range of recent studies of empires that can be loosely termed "new imperial histories," the authors see this mechanism working in both directions: a more nuanced and perceptive analysis of imperial contexts produces a picture of a strikingly strange, indeed, an unfamiliar and alien world. Shifting the focus of analysis from the structuralist, essentialist, and functionalist definitions of empire to a more dynamic perspective on the constitution and signification of imperial experience logically leads their historical research to an exploration of the complex of languages of self-description and self-rationalization.

Keywords: defamiliarization; imperial histories; Russian Empire



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