In May, we will welcome ChiaYin Hsu. She will be presenting
“The ‘Color’ of Money: The Ruble, Competing Currencies, and Conceptions of Citizenship in
Russian Manchuria, 1890s-1920s”
Friday, May 18th, 12pm.
Neuberger Hall 407 | 724 SW Harrison
Transformed by Russian colonial expansion in the late 1890s, the Chinese territory of Manchuria turned from a remote frontier into a locus of global metropolises in the making, where a complex money economy comprising of multiple currencies took root. As depicted by Georg Simmel contemplating the European metropolis in the 1900s, money was “colorless,” an instrument of equivalence without intrinsic quality, a leveler that homogenized qualitative differences. But, in the form of competing currencies that included the Russian ruble, the Japanese yen, and a variety of Chinese dollars, money in Manchuria was “colored”—by the qualitative differences attributed to each currency that found expression in the way currency exchange rate became an everyday concern for the local population. This talk traces the “color” of money in Manchuria along with Russian and Chinese efforts to render their currencies “colorless.” I explore how these efforts fit in with Russian expansionism, and to what extent they shaped Russian and Chinese conceptions of citizenship in the direction of disregarding the “color”—the supposed intrinsic qualities marking their differences—of the diverse ethnicities of the region’s population, in favor of a vision of functional equivalence and equal participation indicated by the principle of currency circulation.
Chia Yin Hsu is assistant professor at the History Department of Portland State University. Her research concerns late Imperial and early Soviet Russian migration to the Russian Far East and North Manchuria.
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