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Botanical Illustration as a Source for Studying Imperial Russia (with Christine Ruane, Discussant: Richard Wortman)
March 10, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Join us for another installment of the 19v Seminar Series!
The territorial expansion of the Russian Empire (1700-1917) brought about new forms of administration, a new official language, new foods, and even new ways of dress. In recent years a number of scholars have helped us understand Russia’s imperial project by analyzing government documents, memoirs, travelogues, and other print media to give voice to the daily experiences of Russians and non-Russians as they negotiated their way in this imperial space. But how would our understanding of the Russian Empire and its colonial ambitions deepen if these texts were used alongside images of the new imperial landscape?
This presentation seeks to address this question by analyzing how government administrators, botanists, and commercial capitalists used botanical illustrations to “russify” the vegetation and by extension the land in which it grew. To understand how this process took place, Professor Christine Ruane will use apples as a case study to show how botanists’ cataloguing and description of these fruits led to important changes in the ways that Russians and non-Russians understood the fruit growing in the landscape. As a result of this transformation, these representations of Russian plant life helped imperial subjects and administrators to reimagine familiar lands and vegetation as a new political, cultural, and economic entity called Imperial Russia.
Watch event recording on YouTube here.