Colonialism and its Aftermath

Empire, Rights, and Citizenship

colonialism in question

Frederick Cooper and Jane Burbank

Empire, Rights, and Citizenship, 212-1946

As legislators writing the French constitution of 1946 considered how to preserve the empire while giving colonies a fuller sense of participation in a political community, a deputy compared the situation to that of the Roman Empire in 212, when the Emperor Caracalla extended citizenship to all free, male inhabitants of the empire. That the diverse peoples of the empire could be made into citizens of empire, without undercutting "local civilizations," was the precedent that appeared relevant 1734 years later in another empire. Our paper explores the idea of citizenship and rights in empires, looking beyond the conventional linkage of citizenship to the nation-state and of rights to popular sovereignty. We look at two different kinds of imperial regimes-the Russian and the French. If the French version of imperial citizenship referred back to Rome, the Russian rights regime built on models that were Eurasian, influenced by a Mongol as well as a Byzantine past.

book cover, russian peasants go to court

Our paper explores both the possibilities and the limits of ways in which citizenship and rights could be conceptualized within the context of empire.

Date: Friday 1 June, 4pm
Where: English Common Room, 555

  • Frederick Cooper is a Professor of History at the New York University. His areas of research are African history, colonisation and decolonisation, social sciences and the colonial world. Professor Cooper recently published Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge History (2005) with the University of California Press.
  • Jane Burbank is a Professor of History at the New York University. Her areas of research are Russian history, legal culture, imperial polities, and peasants. Professor Burbank recently published Russian Peasants Go to Court: Legal Culture in the Countryside, 1905-1917 (2004) with Indiana University Press.