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African Presence in Former Soviet Spaces, by Kesha Fikes and Alaina Lemon

Afro Abkhazian

AFRICAN PRESENCE IN FORMER SOVIET SPACES

Annual Review of Anthropology


Vol. 31: 497-524 (Volume publication date October 2002)

By Kesha Fikes1 and Alaina Lemon2

1.The University of Chicago, Department of Anthropology

2. Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan

Abstract
This review traces accounts of African presence in the former USSRthat are available in or have been cited primarily in English; many sources on this topic published in the USSR were strategically intended for Western consumption. This review tracks repetitions of tropes that link certain kinds of “blackness” to “Africa”: It observes that treating blacks in the USSR as “displaced” confirmed Soviet humanitarianism, and produced andmanaged anti-Western/anticapitalist forms of Soviet nationalism and federalism. We scrutinize the ways accounts of African presence use evidence of “race remnants” that implicitly position black bodies as subjects of racial dissolution and/or cultural assimilation. This leads us to question the possibility of narrating African presence in contexts ruled by logics that wed spatial displacement/placement to racial impurity/purity. More broadly, the review addresses the utility of ideals of displaced racial communities within African diasporic criticism.

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