Between state of exception and everyday banality: Precarious borders in the post-Soviet space

Tatiana Zhurzhenko (Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Vienna)

Lecture (in English)

After almost three decades since the dissolution of the USSR, the post-Soviet borders are legitimized by bilateral treaties, in many cases demarcated on the territory and anchored in the ‘geographic imagination’ of the local populations. But the de-facto borders of quasi-states and break-away territories have also been surprisingly persistent. Moreover, in 2014 we were witnesses of a geopolitical earthquake that produced new dividing lines with an ambivalent legal and political status as well as obscure and ever-changing rules of crossing. How should academic scholarship and the expert community approach these new challenges?

In her talk, Tatiana Zhurzhenko will start with a brief overview of post-Soviet Border Studies as a new area of multidisciplinary research, which has emerged after 1991. She will draw on her decade-long research of the Ukrainian-Russian border as well as some other examples from the region. Seen ‘from below’, as a reality constructed through the rules and routines of control, on the one hand, and everyday practices of crossing, on the other, the precarious post-Soviet borders offer a laboratory for studying structural inequality, nostalgia and contested loyalties. Finally, some political and ethical issues will be addressed that researchers working in the post-Soviet borderlands have been facing, in particular after 2014.

Tatiana (Tetyana) Zhurzhenko is a visiting professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Vienna. Her research focuses on post-Soviet borders and borderland identities, on memory politics in Eastern Europe, and on gender politics and feminism in Ukraine.