2019 Davis Center Book Prize
The 2019 Davis Center Book Prize Winner is Artemy M. Kalinovsky for Laboratory of Socialist Development: Cold War Politics and Decolonization in Soviet Tajikistan (Cornell University Press)
Among the excellent monographs of 2018, Laboratory of Socialist Development stands out in offering a deeply textured study of development in Soviet Tajikistan set effectively in broader questions about modernity, colonialism, civilizing missions, subjectivity, and the socio-material mobilizations of development. The book illuminates not only an understudied region and time (postwar Central Asia), but also Soviet and global history of that period. At every turn in the analysis, Artemy Kalinovsky contextualizes events or phenomena he uncovers in archives with respect to parallels elsewhere. He juxtaposes the construction of the Nurek dam in the 1960s with the Tennessee Valley Authority hydroelectric projects and with dams in Helmand, Afghanistan, all three occurring about the same time. He talks about the logistics, aesthetics, ideology, and subject formation involved in making company towns, contrasting that with twentieth-century capitalist development’s aims to make its own sort of subjects. He presents Soviet Central Asian development as key to Cold War economic and cultural diplomacy to the “Third World.” The book reveals skilled story-craft, with clear discussions and vignettes powerfully framing the arguments and previewing their complexity. The big question addressed is, can modernist development actually help the people it is supposed to serve? The answer is as multilayered as this fine book.