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Russia Question

American Slavery and Russian Serfdom in the Post-Emancipation Imagination The Russia Question Hosts Amanda Brickell Bellows

Published on: May 1, 2023
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The Russia Question is a book talk series devoted to all things Russia, hosted by Russian program director at Fordham University (LC) Prof. Michael Ossorgin, with generous support from the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.

This episode features a conversation with Amanda Brickell Bellows on her recent book American Slavery and Russian Serfdom in the Post-Emancipation Imagination.

Book Cover: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom

Book Description: The abolition of Russian serfdom in 1861 and American slavery in 1865 transformed both nations as Russian peasants and African Americans gained new rights as subjects and citizens. During the second half of the long nineteenth century, Americans and Russians responded to these societal transformations through a fascinating array of new cultural productions. Analyzing portrayals of African Americans and Russian serfs in oil paintings, advertisements, fiction, poetry, and ephemera housed in American and Russian archives, Amanda Brickell Bellows argues that these widely circulated depictions shaped collective memory of slavery and serfdom, affected the development of national consciousness, and influenced public opinion as peasants and freedpeople strove to exercise their newfound rights. While acknowledging the core differences between chattel slavery and serfdom, as well as the distinctions between each nation’s post-emancipation era, Bellows highlights striking similarities between representations of slaves and serfs that were produced by elites in both nations as they sought to uphold a patriarchal vision of society. Russian peasants and African American freedpeople countered simplistic, paternalistic, and racist depictions by producing dignified self-representations of their traditions, communities, and accomplishments. This book provides an important reconsideration of post-emancipation assimilation, race, class, and political power.

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Public Orthodoxy seeks to promote conversation by providing a forum for diverse perspectives on contemporary issues related to Orthodox Christianity. The positions expressed in this essay are solely the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.

About authors

  • Amanda Brickell Bellows

    Amanda Brickell Bellows

    Historian and Lecturer, The New School

    Amanda Brickell Bellows is a historian of the United States in comparative and transnational perspective. She received her Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Lecturer at The New School and Hunter College. Her book, American Slavery and Russian Serfdom ...

    Read author's full bio and see articles by this author
  • Michael Ossorgin

    Michael Ossorgin

    Director of Russian Program at Fordham University

    Michael Ossorgin joined the Modern Languages and Literatures faculty at Fordham University in 2016. His research focuses on narrative and visual art. He writes about visual polyphony in Dostoevsky's poetics, specifically how paintings and imagery create narrative zones in which Dostoevsky's famous d...

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Disclaimer

Public Orthodoxy seeks to promote conversation by providing a forum for diverse perspectives on contemporary issues related to Orthodox Christianity. The positions expressed in the articles on this website are solely the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.

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Public Orthodoxy is a publication of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University