Post-Empire: A Prolegomenon to the Study of Post-Imperial Legacies and Memories

by Jeremy F. Walton (MPI-MMG)

Working Papers WP 21-03
November 2021

ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

Full text: pdf

The recent renaissance of empire/imperialism as a category within political and scholarly discourse has been accompanied by a remarkable efflorescence of collective memories of bygone empires. In this essay, I forward a broad, supple model for the study of legacies and collective memories of empires. After sketching the recent field of (post)imperial discourse, I offer a general theory of the relationship between (collective) memory as the impact of the present on the past and (historical) legacy as the impact of the past on the present. Next, drawing on Achille Mbembe’s seminal concept of the postcolony, I propose an analogous concept, “post-empire.” Following this, I offer a loose methodology for the study of post-empires via a tripartite focus on post-imperial persons, post-imperial places, and post-imperial things. To illustrate this methodology, the essay concludes with a series of sites and examples from my research in former Habsburg, Ottoman, and Romanov/Russian contexts.   


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