USC Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies


Honorable Mention

A World of Empires: The Russian Voyage of the Frigate Pallada

Honorable Mention: Edyta M. Bojanowska
Title: A World of Empires: The Russian Voyage of the Frigate Pallada (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press)

In Edyta Bojanowska’s book A World of Empires, Ivan Goncharov’s Frigate Pallada emerges as a lens through which the reader can observe Russian imperial perspectives taking shape. Goncharov writes and travels, all the while reflecting on the British Empire, Japan’s interactions with the West, Siberia, and the Caucasus. Bojanowska identifies the connections and tensions between Goncharov’s travelogue and imperial policy, and demonstrates how Goncharov’s immediate, eyewitness accounts helped to form Russia’s idea of its place in an ever-expanding world. This complex portrait of Goncharov—who is simultaneously a mouthpiece for imperial policies and an inconsistent observer of the world around him— reveals how his sense of duty and subjectivity combined to present a unique perspective on how imperial history was written. By removing the focus from historical teleology to human agency and subjective frames of interpretation, A World of Empires adopts a microhistorical approach to put an individual face on imperial history. It takes on the challenge of integrating interpretation and reception into the very retelling of imperial history, uncovering anxieties and fantasies about rival empires, race, civilizing missions, and national identity along the way. Situating Russia’s imperial mission within the wider context of global empires and contemporary elaborations of post-colonial critiques, Bojanowska’s book has given new life to Goncharov’s travelogue and new perspectives on how his story can be told.

Winner: Maria Taroutina