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Language, Identity and Politics in Contemporary Ukraine
The widespread stereotype of Ukraine is that of a divided nation – of several "Ukraines" with diverging orientations, different languages and contested identities. This stereotype has been utilized heavily both inside and outside of Ukraine, most significantly by the Russian media. The usual narrative divides Ukraine into Eastern and Western, where the former is considered pro-Russian and Russian-speaking. These complex historical and regional identifications are often overreaching, excessively divisive, and oversimplified. Furthermore, with regard to language, national self-identification, and political participation – including voting patterns – this stereotypical divide is vastly misleading, especially considering the ongoing war in Donbas.
Drawing on sociological survey data as well as qualitative research and comparative studies, the speaker will deconstruct this stereotype as well as to break the presumed link between spoken language, identity, and geopolitical orientation. The concept of bilingualism will also be introduced as a more potent tool than the more traditional approach for explaining such language-identity linkages in Ukraine.
Anna Osypchuk is Associate Professor and Head of the Master’s Program in the Department of Sociology at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. After completing her PhD in Sociology there in 2010, she was a Fulbright visiting scholar in the Department of Sociology at Rutgers University, New Jersey (FFDP, 2010-2011). She also has been visiting scholar and lecturer at Central and East European Studies (CEES), Glasgow University (2014) and in the Department of Sociology at Lund University (2016). Her research focuses on the interplay of agency, cognition, social structures and culture; social and cultural transformations in post-Soviet countries; studies of identities and collective memory, thus spanning sociology, social and political philosophy, anthropology and cultural studies.