Comparing Colonial Discourses: Africa and the Caucasus in Russian Thought

Martina Morabito Discussion
Call for Papers
October 18, 2023 to October 19, 2023
Subject Fields: 
Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Literature, Eastern Europe History / Studies, Russian or Soviet History / Studies, European History / Studies

In the last decades, especially following the spread of postcolonial studies, scholars have long debated on the nature of ‘other’ territories inside the borders of the Russian Empire first and the Soviet Union later. Asking whether Russia possessed actual colonies, they have underlined analogies and differences with European colonial powers, with regards to political and economic management of Russia’s peripheries, and to the latter’s representation (Hall) in Russian culture (Ram 2003; Sunderland 2004; Schimmelpenninck 2010; Etkind 2011). Far from having reached a definite conclusion, the debate is still open.

With the aim of looking at this topic from a different angle, the conference intends to compare the representation in Russian culture of two ‘other’ spaces: Africa and the Caucasus. Both perceived as ‘Oriental’ and exotic, both entangled in colonial practises, they obviously diverged in that the first was the object of European imperialism, the second of Russia’s own. Did Russian discourse (Foucault) over the nature of a colony and colonialism vary when talking about the African continent vs the Caucasus? Were there any similarities in the cultural creation of these two ‘other’, subjugated spaces? How were African and Caucasian peoples, both living in a colonial context, described and represented in Russian culture?

We welcome proposals focused on the Russian gaze over Africa and/or the Caucasus in the Imperial period and Soviet times. While Soviet positioning on Western imperialism is quite known, Imperial Russia’s perspective on the matter is less investigated. Therefore, we particularly appreciate papers dealing with the pre-revolutionary era. 

We accept proposals from different areas of the humanities (literary studies, cultural studies, postcolonial studies, imagology, history, ethnography) based upon:
- literary texts (travel literature included);
- history/geography/cultural essays;
- ethnographic practises;
- figurative works (paintings, photographs);
- films.

The conference will take place 18-19 October 2023 at the University of Padua in an in-person format. However, in an effort to ensure a wider debate, we will allow virtual participation for the small number of speakers who may have difficulties attending in person. No fee is required in order to attend. The publication of the conference proceeding will be considered.

Please email the organisers on ( with your proposal (max. 300 words) for a 20-minute presentation in English and a short bio, by 15 June 2023. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by the end of June.

Scientific Committee: Claudia Criveller, Sara Dickinson, Dominik Gutmeyr-Schnur, Il’ja Kukulin, Alberto Masoero, Niccolò Pianciola, Farah Polato
Organising Committee: Anita Frison, Martina Morabito, Maria Emeliyanova

Keynote speakers: Maxim Matusevich, Harsha Ram

Contact Info: 

Organising Committee: Anita Frison, Martina Morabito, Maria Emeliyanova