Everyday Life in Conflict – Scopes for Action and Coping Strategies in De Facto States

Project coordination: Dr. Sabine von Löwis

Side by side: conflict and everyday life co-exist in Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine. © Konstantin Chernichkin / n-ost.

In her project, social geographer Sabine von Löwis explores how conflicts in the post-Soviet space, which are mainly negotiated and monitored at the international level and in geopolitical discourse, are reflected in the every-day lives of affected communities and what role they play there. Her aim is to ascertain how much autonomy is available to individuals in their daily lives and what form it takes. The project will identify selected coping strategies in the spheres of education, the workplace, healthcare, culture, etc. in response to non-recognised statehood and how these strategies influence or, indeed, alter the conflict constellations.

The macro and meso perspectives form a key entry point and framework for understanding conflicts; however – and this is central to the approach adopted here – all levels are interactive. In order to improve our understanding of the geographical space and the people living there, it is important to consider and analyse their knowledge, experience and attitudes. This project therefore focuses on the micro level and analyses every-day life in conflicts. How does every-day life continue in conflict settings, and what is its relationship to the relevant conflict-related geopolitical discourses and negotiations?

Life in a war zone: at a school near the front line in Eastern Ukraine, sandbags are handed out as protection from gunfire. © Florian Bachmeier / n-ost.

The project will explore the perspective of the communities that are confronted with and live within the political conflict constellations. These communities’ norms, values and practices will be a key focus of Sabine von Löwis’s study, with an emphasis on the different generations’ worlds of experience and how they interact and are transformed as a result of changing constellations of governance, both formal and de facto. She will also seek to identify the frameworks that these governance structures establish for every-day life. Guiding the research is the question whether and how the findings will change attitudes towards these conflicts and contribute to their resolution.

Based on an empirical approach, Sabine von Löwis is planning to collect data in case study regions in the south-western post-Soviet space. This will involve spending longer periods in-country for the purpose of conducting participatory observation, guided surveys, open discussions, expert interviews and source research.