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Imperial Formations

Edited by Ann Stoler, Carole McGranahan, and Peter Perdue

The contributors to this volume critique and abandon the limiting assumption that the European colonialism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries can be taken as the representative form of imperialism. Recasting the study of imperial governance, forms of sovereignty, and the imperial state, the authors pay close attention to non-European empires and the active trade in ideas, practices, and technologies among empires, as well as between metropolitan regions and far-flung colonies. The Ottoman, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, and Japanese empires provide provocative case studies that challenge the temporal and conceptual framework within which colonial studies usually operates. Was the Soviet Union an empire or a nation-state? What of Tibet, only recently colonized but long engaged with several imperial powers? Imperial Formations alters our understanding of past empires the better to understand the way that complex history shapes the politics of the present imperial juncture.

2007. 448 pp., notes, references, index, 6 x 9

Contributors: Jane Burbank, Frederick Cooper, Fernando Coronil, Nicholas Dirks, Prasenjit Duara, Adeeb Khalid, Ussama Makdisi, Carole McGranahan, Peter C. Perdue, Irene Silverblatt, Ann Laura Stoler

Download an excerpt.

Watch Peter Perdue discuss his work with Anna Boozer and Bleda Düring (co-editors of Archaeologies of Empire, SAR Press, 2020) in Archaeologies of Empire and Imperial Formations in Conversation: What Do Ancient Empires Teach Us about the Modern World?

“…a rich and nuanced attempt to reorient the terrain so that the question of comparison and that of canonical imperial models can be joined…. [The introduction] sets out some of the major challenges to producing an analytical apparatus about empire that is grounded in empirical evidence of both the historical and ethnographic variety but is also flexible enough to address contemporary exigencies.”
—Antoinette Burton, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2007


  1. Introduction: Refiguring Imperial Terrains
  2. Bringing America Back into the Middle East: A History of the First American Missionary Encounter with the Ottoman Arab World
  3. The Rights of Difference: Law and Citizenship in the Russian Empire
  4. The Soviet Union as an Imperial Formation: A View from Central Asia
  5. Erasing the Empire, Re-racing the Nation: Racialism and Culturalism in Imperial China
  6. Empire Out of Bounds: Tibet in the Era Of Decolonization
  7. The Imperialism of “Free Nations”: Japan, Manchukuo, and the History of The Present
  8. After Empire: Reflections on Imperialism from the Americas
  9. Modern Inquisitions
  10. Imperial Sovereignty
  11. Provincializing France
There are no working papers for this book at the present time.