A Look at the List – Roger Haydon

As we move towards our new season of books (those publishing between March and August this year), we asked our acquiring editors to give us a little preview of their list. Here’s the second entry in the series, from Executive Editor Roger Haydon.


I’ve had a lot of pleasure working on the books that I’ve sponsored on our spring/summer 2019 list. They’re as varied in topic and tenor as I could wish for:  contemporary expressions of Russian paranoia, the political efficacy of violence in Indonesia, how terrorists employ children in their violent campaigns, the sometimes perverse outcomes of election monitoring around the world, popular discontent with the repressive government of Vietnam, the differences in the ways men and women think about war, how Central Asian and Caucasian migrants remember the pleasures they experienced and the prejudices they encountered in late-Soviet Moscow and Leningrad—as always, my authors have taught me a huge amount.

It’s invidious to pick out any one title, but I’m struck by the extraordinary, multilingual research that underpins Alyssa Park’s Sovereignty Experiments. She’s worked through archives in several languages to build a picture of international law, and in particular notions of sovereignty and citizenship, from the bottom up. Many thousands of rural Koreans trekked north to the Tumen Valley in the late 19th century, pushed by famine and land disputes, pulled by opportunity. Their very presence befuddled local administrators and elites in far-off capitals. Were they Koreans or, by virtue of crossing the Tumen River, had they suddenly become Russian or Chinese citizens?  Whose laws should be used to regulate their lives? Within a couple of decades all the national players were remade: the Qing empire became Republican China, Korea became part of the Japanese empire, Tsarist Russia metamorphosed into the Soviet Union. Park manages to tell this incredibly complicated story in a comprehensible way, and she’s continuously alive to the implications of ordinary people’s decisions for the abstractions of diplomacy, inter-state relations, and international law. It’s a continuing joy for me as an acquiring editor to stumble across such smart and beautifully realized projects, about topics I didn’t even imagine were topics before I encountered them. I hope for many more seasons full of similar surprises.


Roger Haydon is executive editor at Cornell University Press. The Press is 150 years old this year; contrary to popular opinion he hasn’t been around quite that long, but sometimes it feels like it.

A Look at the List – Roger Haydon