The Jordan Center’s Colloquium Series serves to introduce the most recent work of scholars within the Slavic field. Participants come from universities across the country and abroad, and work in disciplines ranging from history, political science and anthropology to literature and film. The colloquium discussion is based on a working paper which will be circulated prior to the event. On February 9th, please join us for the next installment of our Spring 2018 Colloquium Series with William Rosenberg from the University of Michigan on “On Narratives of Possibility and the Nature of Social Protest: Scarcity, Loss and the Problem of Power in Revolutionary Russia”.
The dominant narratives of the Russian Revolution structure our understanding around the struggle for power — kto kogo, who over whom, as Lenin succinctly expressed it. This contribution to the anniversary discussions of 1917 attempts to complicate these narratives by distinguishing objectively institutionalized power from subjectively based forms of insurrection in events like the popular uprising of February, and by resituating the question of power away from the struggle between these forms to the ability of either or both to resolve the sets of problems that precipitated the revolution itself.
The essay proposes that the most important of these problems were related to scarcity and loss in their various complex dimensions. It proposes that both engaged material, representational, and emotional states whose resolution was essential to realizing the revolution’s near universally supported initial goals. It thus suggests the limitations of focusing on the political struggle for power in understanding the outcomes and broader implications of 1917, as well as for understanding socio-political revolution more generally.
William G. Rosenberg is Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Michigan, Faculty Research Associate at Bowdoin College, Center Associate at Harvard’s Davis Center, and Associate Scholar at the St. Petersburg Institute of History, RAN. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of the European University at St. Petersburg. In addition to the political and social history of revolutionary Russia, he is interested in historical theory, especially as it relates to the narrative problem of accessing subjectivity. Among other publications, he has explored these issues in Processing the Past: Contesting Authority in History and the Archives (with Francis Blouin), which recently appeared in Russian; “Revolution and Counter-Revolution: The Syndrome of Violence in Russia’s Civil Wars, 1918-1920,” Robert Gerwarth and John Horne, War in Peace: Paramilitary Violence after the Great War; and “Reading Soldiers “Moods’: Russian Military Censorship and the Configuration of Feeling in World War I,” American Historical Review 2014:2 (June 2014)