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Irrigation Canals as Subaltern Agents of Resistence: An Example from 19th Century Russian Turkestan

Author(s): Elizabeth Brite

Year: 2017

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In the mid 19th century, Imperial Russia established domination over "Russian Turkestan," a large territory in Central Asia. A core part of the colonial mission was the transformation of Turkestan's arid environments into productive farmland. Though this was eventually achieved by the Soviets who constructed massive new irrigation systems in Central Asia, earlier imperial authorities failed in this task and struggled for decades to wrest control of water management from local populations. In this paper, I examine this brief but significant initial period of conquest when the canals and the people of Turkestan resisted the imperial domination of the Russian Empire. Taking a turn towards new materialist perspectives, I explore how the precolonial canals themselves were important, subaltern agents of resistance that provided a basis around which humans could act to subvert authority. I consider the ways that these acts were imprinted on the material record of Central Asian landscapes, and explore how irrigation canals may be legible artifacts of resistance to imperial expansion.

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Irrigation Canals as Subaltern Agents of Resistence: An Example from 19th Century Russian Turkestan. Elizabeth Brite. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429794)


Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14720

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America