Acquisitions editors generally bring in books one by one, looking for the smartest, best, most interesting books we can find. We see the links among them, eventually, but sometimes an outside body provides that recognition.
Each year the Association for the Study of Nationalities gives an award for the year’s outstanding book on Russia, eastern Europe, or Eurasia “in which substantial attention is paid to questions of ethnicity and/or nationalism.” Since 2011 Cornell books have won five times and received four honorable mentions. These nine titles explore nationalism and ethnicity in different ways, different locations.
Winners address those questions in various places: the Balkans (Bergholz, Hajdarpasic, Dragostinova), the Baltics (Frick), and central Asia (Cameron, Reeves, Khalid, Sunderland, Radnitz). In method they range from fastidious multilingual archival research (Bergholz, for instance, and Frick) through to contemporary fieldwork (Reeves and Radnitz). Some are astonishing feats of microhistorical reconstruction—Bergholz on instances of rural violence at the collapse of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1941, Frick on the ethnoconfessional geography of 17th-century Wilno/Vilnius, Dragostinova on the Greeks of early 20th-century Bulgaria. Sunderland traces the life of a Baltic German nobleman who became warlord of Mongolia; the Red Army executed him in 1921. Some are intellectual histories—Hajdarpasic on the development of nationalist thought in 19th-century Bosnia, Khalid on how Uzbek intellectuals reacted to the coming of Bolshevism. Yet others look at contemporary events: Radnitz on how local elites in Central Asia have captured and used mass protests, Reeves on the practical meanings of the idea of territorial integrity in the Fergana Valley, where the formal borders of three Central Asia states meet.
The 2019 winner is Sarah Cameron. Her book analyzes the Kazakh famine of the early 1930s and how one of the heinous crimes of Stalinism helped make a modern Kazakh identity. And now I’m looking for the next one….
Roger Haydon’s bundle on nationalism and ethnic studies:
Roger Haydon is executive editor at Cornell University Press. Among the areas in which he sponsors books are the history, politics and society of eastern Europe, Russia, and central Asia.
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