Anthropoliteia: What’s going on in Ukraine?

31 03 2014

The political anthropology blog Anthropoliteia, subtitled “Critical perspectives on police, security, crime, law and punishment around the world,” has been running an ongoing forum called “What’s Going On in Ukraine?

One of the recent posts was a “Ukraine Roundtable” (part 1) organized in collaboration with Allegra: A Virtual Lab of Legal Anthropology, which has been running its own series of commentaries on Ukraine. The first part of the roundtable featured comments from five observers conducting research in Ukraine and/or Russia. (It is found on Allegra here.)

The Anthropoliteia series is archived here.


Yurchak: “Little green men”

31 03 2014

Russian-born UC Berkeley anthropologist Alexei Yurchak, author of the celebrated study Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation, has written a fascinating account of the unnamed armed forces that appeared in Crimea before its referendum. It is entitled “Little green men: Russia, Ukraine, and post-Soviet sovereignty.”

A few excerpts:

“What we witnessed in Crimea is a curious new political technology — a military occupation that is staged as a non-occupation. These curious troops were designed to fulfill two contradictory things at once – to be anonymous and yet recognized by all, to be polite and yet frightening, to be identified as the Russian Army and yet, be different from the Russian Army. They were designed to be a pure, naked military force – a force without a state, without a face, without identity, without a clearly articulated goal. [. . .]

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Bezruk on Right Sector

30 03 2014

Tetiana Bezruk, a researcher of far right movements at the University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, offers a brief analysis of the Right Sector movement here (in Russian and in English).

In her view the movement grew not because of its ideology but because of its actions in the self-defense of the Maidan. The appeal of that message remains limited, and their most recent actions — notably March 28’s  attempted “storming” of the Parliament — have marginalized them further.

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Weiss: “The Russians are coming”

29 03 2014

Writing in Foreign PolicyMichael Weiss, editor of the Russian media analysis magazine The Interpreter, shares 10 reasons why Russia is likely to invade Ukraine.

The reasons include the recent Russian troop build-up along the border; the IMF bailout of Ukraine (which is now more than the $15 billion Russia had earlier promised Ukraine); Putin’s relationship with Obama; the West’s divided and weak response to what Russia has done so far; recent Kremlin signals; Russia’s military reliance on southern and eastern Ukrainian industries (an underacknowledged but important factor); Russian government and media distortions of events; and what Weiss calls “kombinatsiya” and “modernizatsiya.”

While there are also clear reasons for Russia not to invade, Weiss makes a good case. The full article is worth reading.


Media frames of Ukraine crisis

28 03 2014

Below is a link to the presentation I gave at a teach-in on Ukraine and Crimea at the University of Vermont this past Wednesday.

My presentation focused on the dominant media frames of the crisis, with “ground-truthing” based on my research of the events over the last 4 months. (The other speakers dealt, respectively, with social media use, geopolitics, and Russian media perspectives.)

The slides were just a starting point, and much of my commentary (not included) consisted of critical and contextual interpretation of the images. But there are some minimal explanatory notes below the images (if you open the file in Power Point), and the fifth last slide provides a brief summary of my comments and analysis.



Update on recent Ukraine developments

28 03 2014

Worrying developments in Ukraine over the last few days include the killing of far-right leader Olexander Muzychko, a.k.a. Sashko Bilyj, in a shoot-out with police; the attempted storming of Parliament by armed Right Sector militants today; the growing presence of Russian armies alongside Ukraine’s eastern border (along with persistent and growing rumors of an impending invasion); and preparation for war on both sides.

Here are some English-language sources with useful background information on these events.

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Bilaniuk: On Ukrainian civic nationalism

28 03 2014

Linguistic anthropologist Laada Bilaniuk, author of Contested Tongues: Language Politics and Cultural Correction in Ukraine, writes perceptively about the rise of Ukrainian civic nationalism (as opposed to ethnic nationalism) in the wake of the Russian military threat to Ukraine’s borders, here.

This video is an example of many that I myself have come across in Ukrainian social media in recent weeks:

The line — “I never thought of nationality until the present moment. We have no such line in our passports, thank God” — strikes me as a poignant one, since it is this that the Svoboda (Freedom) party would like to introduce. Despite their representation in the current coalition government, however, Svoboda’s support is not very high: their leader Oleh Tiahnybok is polling at 1.7%.



Bensh: The coming gas rush

22 03 2014

Energy developer and Ukrainian energy security advisor Robert Bensh discusses the future of shale gas development, liquefied natural gas shipping, and related topics in light of the Ukrainian and Crimean crises, here.



Crimethinc: Revolution & reaction togetherw

21 03 2014

In “The Ukrainian Revolution and the Future of Social Movements,” U.S.-based collective Crimethinc provides a relatively nuanced anarchist perspective on the Ukrainian revolution.

They write:

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Goode & Laruelle: Tactical nationalism

20 03 2014

In “Putin, Crimea, and the Legitimacy Trap,” international affairs scholars J. Paul Goode and Marlene Laruelle outline some of the other contexts around Russia’s move into Crimea.

Read the article in Open Democracy.


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