Wednesday, August 31, 2011


This blog seeks to create a forum which transforms what the public can learn from the question of empire. Legacies of Empire will be a series of essays and multi-media posts that bring together people from across academic disciplines and institutions. It will also be a workshop where anyone who is interested can share new ideas, speculate, experiment, theorize, and develop works in progress. It will inaugurate an open discussion with several disparate realms of scholarship and thought and reveal to what extent all of those realms of scholarship and thought productively inform the others when the question of empire is explicitly posed to them.

The issues of empire can only be understood through multidisciplinary exchange. Empires themselves are complex historical, economic, cultural, technological, philosophical, and political endeavors. So, although “post-colonial” theory has largely been the domain of literary and cultural studies, to adequately address the legacies of empire, a broad-based, collaborative, and multidisciplinary approach is most appropriate.

Empires bind the story of civilization. From Egypt, Persia, India, Rome, China, and South and Central America, to Britain, France, Russia, the Soviet Union and the United States, imperial formations have spanned ancient and modern history and touched nearly every part of the world. They expand; they dominate; and they crumble. Through their traces, they inform contemporary identities, social formations, politics, languages, customs, and values. Technological, scientific, and medical innovation have all been spurred by various imperial ambitions. Cities, economies, and the natural environment have all been shaped by empires. Untold human suffering and epic human triumphs are intertwined through the immense fabric woven by imperialism, the knots of which are far too numerous for any one scholar to untie.

"Legacies of Empire" hopes to connect literary scholars, historians, classicists, and linguists with specialists in political science, international relations, and economics. Engineers, architects, and urban planners can share their perspective on the technology, designs, and financial structures of empire with anthropologists, epidemiologists, environmentalists, theorists of education, and artists and musicians. These exchanges will hopefully be just the beginning of long and fruitful collaborations that cross-pollinate a vibrant intellectual community.

How do empires come into being? Why do empires fall? What do they achieve? What patterns can we identify across history and region? How does the question of empire allow us to see objects of study in various disciplines in new and different ways?

What legacies of empire are we living with today?