On Arid Ground focuses on the relationships between empire and environment in Central Asia, using environmental history to examine the practice of Russian imperialism in Turkestan at the end of empire, from the 1860s until 1916. It reveals for the first time a comprehensive assessment of the environmental imprint of Russian colonisation, and shows how local ecologies fitted into broader repertoires of imperial rule, accommodation, and resistance. Ranging widely above and below the surface in Turkestan, from the deserts of Transcaspia to the highlands and lowlands of rural Fergana and Semirech'e, Jennifer Keating explores infrastructure development, migrant settlement, land reclamation and dispossession, the commodification of nature, and environmental violence to reveal the ways in which ecological change was central to the building and breaking of empire. Attentive to connections, synchronicities and scale, On Arid Ground makes the case for looking beyond cotton and water in Central Asian context, for the powerful material role played by animals and plants, sand, silt, and salt in human histories, and for the less visible relationships between far-flung people and things within and beyond Turkestan's borders. Laying bare the political roots and repercussions of environmental change, the volume brings fresh perspectives both to the history of Central Asia and to that of the wider Russian empire across Eurasia.
Introduction: Towards a political ecology of aridity
1. The magical iron band
2. (Re)claiming shade, roots, water
3. Rural settlement and the question of surplus
4. Ecological afterlives and natural tribute
5. Revisiting the commodity frontier
6. Ecologies of war and revolt
Conclusion: Central Asian environments in the age of empire
Following a PhD at the School of Slavonic & East European Studies (University College London), Jennifer Keating was awarded a two-year Past & Present Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research, London, and then a one-year teaching post in Russian and Soviet History at the University of Cambridge. She then took up a permanent lectureship in History at University College Dublin. Prior to taking up the post in Dublin, she taught at University College London, the University of Cambridge, and the London School of Economics.