Dr Jennifer Keating, Past & Present Fellow

Recourse to ruin: Eco-violence and social crisis in Russia, 1881-1930

Jennifer works on the Russian empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Her research interests lie in the social and environmental history of the late imperial and early Soviet state, particularly at the edges of the empire where land and natural resources acquired a charged significance during and after episodes of imperial expansion and collapse. She completed a PhD in Russian history at UCL in 2015, and is currently in the second year of a Past and Present Postdoctoral Fellowship at the IHR, having spent 2016-2017 teaching Russian and Soviet history at the University of Cambridge.

As an IHR postdoctoral fellow, Jennifer’s focus is two-fold: firstly, the completion of a book manuscript, On arid ground: Environment, vision and empire in late imperial Central Asia, 1881-1914 which explores Russian attempts to physically re-form the landscapes of their new colonial territory by digging, watering and greening, and the visual representation of this environmental change on regional, national and international scales. The book thus examines the intersection of some of the material and mental processes that underlay the practice of imperialism, conceiving environmental change as a tool to integrate, and at times, exclude Central Asia (and its inhabitants) from the community of empire.

In addition to finishing this monograph, Jennifer is also developing a major new research project which examines the role of eco-violence across the Russian state from 1881-1930. This work uses human/nature interactions as a way of looking at a bigger set of questions about how communities and states operate at moments of pressure, crisis and collapse. She is currently writing up the first phase of this project, which examines the sabotage and arson of crops, waterways and infrastructure in civil war-era Central Asia as part of widespread repertoires of violent retribution intended to control and/or deny access to material resources.


Research and Publications


  • ‘Amid the horrors of nature: “Dead” environments at the margins of the Russian empire’, in C. Campbell, A. Giovine & J. Keating (eds), Empty Spaces: Perspectives on emptiness in modern history, London: Institute of Historical Research (forthcoming).
  • ‘“There are few plants, but they are growing, and quickly”: Foliage and the aesthetics of landscape in Russian Central Asia, 1854-1914’, Studies in the history of gardens and designed landscapes, 2017, 37: 2, special issue ‘Cultivating identities’.
  • ‘Visualising memory: A review of online museum collections and digital surrogates in Russia, Digital Icons: Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media, 2015, 13.