History professors publish three important scholarly books

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Topics include tsarist fashion, Russian civil society, and Vietnam-era drug policies, which foreshadowed great movements underlying ordinary events

Faculty in The University of Tulsa history department have published three books this year that investigate how smaller events in history led to larger trends and movements.

Professor Christine Ruane explores the Russian obsession with fashion in the 18th and 19th centuries in her award-winning work, “The Empire’s New Clothes: A History of the Russian Fashion Industry, 1700–1917,” published by Yale University Press. Ruane traces the birth of the fashion movement to a decree from Peter the Great in 1701 that forced Russians to abandon their traditional dress or face “dreadful punishment.” The mandate drove people to adopt Western European styles, and through this change, Russians began to form a new national identity, developed from their expansion into capitalism, industrial production and new communication styles.

Ruane used memoirs, mail-order catalogues, fashion magazines and other period sources to demonstrate Russia’s new ties to the West and the ramifications fashion had on society. Her book also provides a rich collection of photography depicting ordinary Russians in their finest garments. In recognition of her in-depth research, Ruane will receive the 2009 Heldt Prize for best book in Slavic/East European/Eurasian women’s studies from the Association for Women in Slavic Studies in November at the organization’s annual conference.

Professor Joseph Bradley also explores Russian society in his book, “Voluntary Associations in Tsarist Russia: Science, Patriotism, and Civil Society,” published by Harvard University Press. Bradley examines the crucial role of voluntary associations in the development of Russian civil society from the late 18th to the early 20th century. He argues that a cooperative and patriotic effort between the government and society to disseminate scientific knowledge for the prosperity and prestige of Russia turned to confrontation, as increasing public assertiveness challenged autocratic authority. Because the Russian government would not allow political representation, associations cultivated the micro-spaces of initiative and autonomy where the capacity of citizenship could appear.

Assistant Professor Jeremy Kuzmarov has worked to dispel popular public perceptions in his book, “The Myth of the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs,” published by University of Massachusetts Press. Kuzmarov argues that the stereotype of the drug-addicted soldier helped to distort American public memory of the Vietnam War at the same time that it promoted an escalation of the war on drugs. Lost was the context in which the soldiers took drugs as an act of resistance against the military and the war. Drugs became the scapegoat for the American failure in Vietnam and falsely blamed for the breakdown of the armed forces. The effects of these misperceptions resulted in Nixon’s “War of Drugs” and the evolution of the American domestic and international drug policy. Kuzmarov’s book is a volume in the series “Culture, Politics and the Cold War.”

For more information about research in the TU history department, visit www.utulsa.edu/history or call (918) 631-2338.

Amethyst Cavallaro