Tag Archives: Empire Conference

Katynka Martinez

Katynka Martinez
Originally uploaded by cuuixsilver

Katynka gave a really interesting talk about a project in which high school students made their own versions of the Pac Man game that reflected their own neighborhoods and experience. One was called El Imigrante in which Carlos Jesus Imigrante is pursued around town by minutemen. If they catch him he’s deported, if he wins he gets a green card.

In another game, neighborhood kids collect up loose change while being pursued by neighborhood drunks. If they collect enough, they can buy a toy, but if the bums get the change, they can go to the liquor store for beer.

I wish we’d had more time to talk about interpretations of the different games, and also how they engaged with games like the recent (and really racist) Border Patrol game. But it was a cools talk and it really resonated with what we know about the lives of our own students.

Also, that Border Patrol game is creepily similar to a game popular in Switzerland that Mirko reported recently. In that game, the object is to get rid of the black sheep–but the Border Patrol game is really much worse because (like in the Ethnic Cleansing game) you win by blowing away Mexicans, including women and children, and seeing the blood splatter. Sometimes I’m repelled that creativity and hatred seem not to be mutually exclusive which somehow I feel they should be. Not that this would make sense, but somehow just I think it’s the way things should work.

Mikhail Alexseev speaking on "Russia: Challenges to the Post-Imperial Migration State"

Finally things seem to have settled into some kind of groove. We have had dinner, we have had drinks, and now our first plenary has begun. I’ve had some time to speak with Mikhail over dinner–very pleasant fellow, and very sharp on these issues.

Some highlights– that as the Russian empire expanded, it’s diversity expanded as well, because the empire absorbed many non-Russian groups. At the time, it was not perceived as threatening because power increased with that expansion. But now, Russia is very diverse, and the empire is no longer so powerful. Finally, right now Russian birth and death rates are such that even in the best case, the need to attract and absorb about 35,000,000 immigrants to maintain the existing population levels of about 140,000,000.

Ok, that wasn’t final–also, the ratio of ethnic Russians to other ethnicities inside Russia is shrinking already. Migrants are now coming from former Soviet Republics, and Russia has to deal with the spread of Islam and territorial vulnerability. And, most people when surveyed, would overwhelmingly prefer that the migrant populations were reduced.

Pictorial ethnic cleansing–kids, here is is the house of a Cossack; find the alien objects in the house and cross them out. This is a contemporary textbook aimed ad elementary school kids. (Cossacks were border guards, not quite, but almost vigilantes).

So the current context leads to quite serious tensions between ethnic Russians and other populations inside Russia, and Putin has made it very difficult for any immigrants to enter Russia, other than those from former Soviet Republics. Further, extremely high levels f latent xenophobia–well over 50% think all immigrants, legal or illegal, and their children, should be deported.

In sum:

  • Post-Soviet Russia changed rapidly from an empire to a global migration state, but institutions have lagged behind.
  • The Russian Imperial legacy, changing demographics, and migration challenge Russian identity and raise the threat of communal violence
  • Short-term restrictionist policies responding to these challenges have deep roots in the imperial identity and legacy, but they undermine Russia’s current and future status as a great power.

Great talk!

And a settled panel schedule becomes a moving target

Ok, I know people have personal situations that come up, but this week we have received cancellations from about five people who just last week were saying how much they looked forward to meeting us. Grrr. But it’s ok, we juggled everything, the show has gone on. But now we are having issues over the alcohol and I really don’t see how we can have dinner without drinks…I mean come on, we are all grown ups, we’ve traveled far, worked hard to present good papers. Anyway, I will not be sad to shed the hat of conference co-chair.

And because I’ve been running round like a maniac trying, along with Betsy, the other chair, to settle this stuff, I’ve hardly had a chance to hear any of the talks. So that’s a bit disappointing, though I have at least gotten to meet and chat with many of our speakers. The worst aspect is the finances–the school just doesn’t have much funding to support this kind of thing; they want us to raise our profile, but that costs money!

So yeah, lots of fun…

Whoohoo, the Empire Conference has started

I am glad to have had this experience, but I am so glad that in two days, it will be over! Tonight we held the opening reception, for which we slightly overestimated food and drink, but the reverse would have been worse by far.

So we have nice collection of papers and two really kick-ass keynote speakers, Mikhail Alexseev and Katynka Martinez. I’m really looking forward to meeting them both and to hearing some of the other talks as well. I also finally met Anne Paulet in person; she teaches history up at Humboldt State U. (also a branch of the CSU, for you out of town readers). She and I have corresponded quite a bit over the last months and I was getting ready for the conference, and we have hit it off very well.

Other news–I ended up sticking with a MacBook Pro, much as I admire the MB Air. the latter just gives up too many things I really need, so I will deal with lugging a 6-pounder for awhile.

More later…

The joys of a conference co-chair

So after months of not hearing so much from anyone else involved with our biannual conference, my co-chair, Betsy Eudey, and I have taken the bit in our collective teeth and chosen “Empire: Migrations, Diasporas, and Networks.” Now we just have to line up speakers and finalize the dates… Hopefully I can get the website up and the call out next week.

And, I’m having two meeting. with our new dean, Carolyn Stefanco, today about all the projects we are trying to get started–the new MA, the new minor, the faculty workshops, my own research…and there are all the grant proposals! And the conference…We had one meeting, and that just wasn’t enough time this morning, so we are meeting this afternoon as well! She’s really interested in the idea of collaborating with Piet Zwart (yay!) and in international education generally. In fact, she will be away herself on a Fulbright scholarship during the fall term. I need to get her advice on applying for one of those…in a year or two.