Empires: Domination, Collaboration, and Resistance

This research community frames its probing of the dynamics of empires on the interrelated themes of domination, collaboration and resistance.

Even as empires have been ushered out the door by democratic revolutions, declarations of universal rights of self-determination and announcements about the end of history, they keep creeping back onto the global political stage. It’s not surprising that they continue to be the subject of scholarly scrutiny. 

About the Project

Whether the focus is land empires, overseas colonial empires, informal empires, or hegemonic interstate relations, scholars from a variety of disciplines have probed common underlying themes: motives of expansionists; mechanisms of rulership, including collaboration among core and peripheral elites; resistance to empire builders that leads to repression, accommodation, and modification of ruling strategies, and the costs and benefits of empires, at both the core and at the periphery. 

This research community frames its interdisciplinary probing of the dynamics of empires on the interrelated themes of domination, collaboration and resistance.

Domination and “Repertoires of Power” 

Empires at their simplest involve rule of one polity over another polity or people.  As such, creating empires has always led to domination by some over others. How this domination is structured, however has varied enormously, anywhere from tight and rigid hierarchies to loosely organized pluralistic structures. A scholarly examination of the repertoires of power – not only coercive, but also economic, ideological, and literary – used to build and sustain empires is bound to prove deeply revealing of the nature of any given empire: motives, hopes, and ambitions of the rulers; mechanisms of rule; resistance to or acceptance of imperial rule; and the impact of imperial rule on the ruled.

Collaboration as a Mechanism for Sustaining Empires

While domination is a core aspect of empires, over time most empire builders settle down to rule by establishing collaborative links with peripheral elites. These collaborative links may be more or less reciprocal. Students of direct versus indirect forms of colonial empires have long understood these variations.  The process of collaboration as a mechanism of sustaining empires is nevertheless understudied, especially in the case of informal empires; comprador elites are neither heroic figures from the standpoint of metropolitan scholarship on empires, nor are they much loved by a variety of nationalists.  As a research community we hope to investigate further the process of collaboration that sustains empires.  

Resistance as Constitutive of Empire

The research community is also interested in exploring processes of resistance to empires – the flip side of their domination.  The study of resistance within empires tends to focus either on the early phases of  conquest, when resistance is often suppressed by superior force, or on the tail-end of the imperial experience, when, for instance, nationalists topple a wobbly system and help give rise to a new nation-state. According to this conventional plotline, resistance is often expressed in the language of nationalism, sovereignty, and the rights of self-determination.  This conventional focus is clearly important.  What distinguishes the focus of this group, however, is its concern with resistance throughout the imperial experience, as constitutive of it – not something that comes with the initial or final chapters of imperial formations.   



Jeremy Adelman is Walter Samuel Carpenter III Professor in Spanish Civilization and Culture, professor of history, director of the Council for International Teaching and Research, and chair of the Fund for Canadian Studies. He is interested in the history of Latin America in comparative and world contexts with a focuse on economic, legal, and political transformations. Adelman’s books include, as coauthor, Worlds Together, Worlds Apart  (2011), a history of the world from the beginning of humankind; and as author, Sovereignty and Revolution in the Iberian Atlantic (2006); Republic of Capital: Buenos Aires and the Legal Transformation of the New World (1999);  and Frontier Development: Land, Labour, and Capital on the Wheatlands of Argentina and Canada (1994).  His newest book, The Worldly Philosopher: Albert O. Hirschman. An Intellectual Journey through the Twentieth Century, was published in 2013. Adelman’s current  book projects are “Latin America: A Global History” and a study of Latin American social scientists from the Great Depression to the present. Ph.D. Oxford University.

G. John Ikenberry is Albert G. Milbank Professor of Politics and International Affairs and codirector of both the Center for International Security Studies and the Princeton Project on National Security, a collaborative multiyear project examining the changing character of America’s international security environment. His research focuses on international relations and US foreign policy. A prolific author and editor, Ikenberry’s most recent book, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order, was published in 2011 and the award-winning After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars, was published in 2001.Among many activities, Ikenberry has served on an advisory group at the State Department and on the Council of Foreign Relations’ Henry Kissinger-Lawrence Summers Commission on the Future of Transatlantic Relations. He is on the editorial board of World Politics and is coeditor of International Relations of the Asia Pacific, a Japanese journal of international relations. Ph.D. University of Chicago.

Atul Kohli is David K. E. Bruce Professor of International Affairs, a professor of politics and international affairs, chair of the World Politics editorial board, and codirector of the Project on Democracy and Development. His principal research interests are in the area of comparative political economy with a focus on the developing countries.  A prolific author and editor, Kohli’s books include Poverty Amid Plenty in the New India (2012); Democracy and Development in India: From Socialism to Pro-Business (2010); and State-Directed Development: Political Power and Industrialization in the Global Periphery (2004). Among his many activities, Kohli has served as cochair and vice chair of the American Political Science Association. His current research investigates imperialism and the developing world. Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley.

Core Members

Nick Nesbitt is a professor and chair of the Department of French and Italian. His teaching and research interests include Haitian, French-Caribbean, and African studies; postcolonial and critical theory; political philosophy; and African diasporic music and cinema. His work in francophone studies focuses on the intellectual history of the black Atlantic world.  Nesbitt’s books include, as author, Universal Emancipation: The Haitian Revolution and the Radical Enlightenment (2008) and Voicing Memory: History and Subjectivity in French Caribbean Literature (2003), and, as editor or coeditor, Toussaint Louverture: The Haitian Revolution (2008) and Sounding the Virtual: Gilles Deleuze and the Philosophy of Music (2010). His most recent book, forthcoming from University of Liverpool Press, is entitled Caribbean Critique: Antillean Critical Theory from Toussaint to Glissant.  Ph.D. Harvard University.

Rachel Price is an associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese languages and cultures. Her research focuses on Latin American, circum-Atlantic, and Cuban literature and culture; media and literature; and comparative imperial histories. Her book manuscript, The Object of the Atlantic: Concretude 1868–1968, about the emergence of a postromantic aesthetics of concretude in Brazil, Cuba, and Spain in the wake of changes in empire and capitalism in the 1890s, is under review.  Ph.D. Duke University.

Michael A. Reynolds is an  associate professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies, where he teaches courses on the Middle East and Eurasia, comparative history, war and politics, secularism, and the Caucasus. He is the author of Shattering Empires: The Clash and Collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empires, 1908-1918 (2011), cowinner of the American Historical Association’s George Louis Beer Prize for international history. He is currently at work on a book on the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the first republic in the Muslim world, and its origins in the intellectual, cultural, social, and geopolitical interstices of empire. Ph.D. Princeton University.

Cyrus Schayegh (PhD, Columbia University, 2004) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies. He has published in the American Historical Review, Comparative Studies in Society and History, and the International Journal of Middle East Studies, amongst other journals; authored Who Is Knowledgeable, Is Strong: Science, Class, and the Formation of Modern Iranian Society, 1900-1950 (California University Press, 2009) and The Making of the Modern World: A Middle Eastern History (under contract with Harvard University Press); and co-edited A Global Middle East: Mobility, Materiality and Culture in the Modern Age, 1880-1940 (Tauris, 2014) and The Routledge History Handbook of the Middle East Mandates (Routledge, 2015). He is currently developing a new, collaborative project with the working title “Global/Third-World go-between cities: Revisiting globalization/decolonization from Beirut, Dakar and Singapore, 1940s-1970s.”

Teresa Shawcross is an associate professor in the Department of History and the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies.  She teaches courses on the political, cultural and economic history of the late medieval Mediterranean.Shawcross’s publications include the Chronicle of Morea: Historiography in Crusader Greece (Oxford, 2009).  Recent research has explored the consequences of the fragmentation of the Byzantine Empire.  Interested in theories and practices of empire, she is completing a book on the transition from Byzantine to Ottoman rule (Nightmares of Empire: Memory, Legitimation and Power in the Eastern Mediterranean, 13th-15th Centuries). She holds a New Directions Fellowship from the Mellon Foundation. D.Phil Oxford University.


Sahan Savas Karatasli
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Research Community on Empires: Domination, Collaboration and Resistance

Karatasli is a comparative-historical sociologist whose work examines the relationship between social movements (nationalist movements, labor unrest, rebellions and revolutions) and historical processes of capitalism, state formation and warfare. His Ph.D. dissertation - titled “Financial Expansions, Hegemonic Transitions and Nationalism: A Longue Durée Analysis of State-Seeking Nationalist Movements” (2013, Johns Hopkins University) - received the Theda Skocpol Dissertation Award by the Comparative-Historical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association. Currently, Karatasli is working on his book project titled “Capitalism and Nationalism in the Longue Durée”, which examines the relationship between major waves of nationalist revolts in the world and periods of intensified economic crises, inter-state warfare and social revolutions in the world from 13th century to present. His ongoing research projects also include changing patterns of global income inequality; formation, dissolution and transformation of international orders; and waves of social unrest in world history from the late 18th century to present.