11th Migration Research Lab:
“Cultural Diversity,” “Minorities” and “Integration” as Categories of Practice and Analysis in Countries with a Soviet Past”

29.6.2023, 12:15 - 13:45 (CEST), Ort: KWZ 1.610 (Heinrich-Düker-Weg 14, Göttingen) and online via Zoom

Discussion with researchers of cultural diversity in Estonia, Ukraine, and Russia

In their well-known article “Beyond "identity",” Rogers Brubaker and Frederick Cooper warn social scientists to be cautious when employing such concepts as “race,” “nation,” “ethnicity,” “citizenship” and “identity.” The need for caution stems from the fact that these concepts are both categories of practice (i.e., used by various social actors in their daily life) and categories of scientific analysis. Researchers should strive, as far as possible, not to become hostages of a lay language that is charged with certain ideological meanings.
It seems that in relation to countries with a Soviet past, social scientists should be especially attentive. Firstly, because the vocabulary of the Soviet nationalities policy, permeated with essentialist anthropological knowledge, has not yet been outlived. It continues to manifest itself, to one or another extent, in discourses and practices of certain social and political actors in societies that are still experiencing the consequences of this policy. Secondly, because the alternative to the essentialist Soviet anthropological knowledge has become the social constructivist theoretical sensitivity inspired by the studies conducted primarily in North American and Western European contexts. Therefore, the question of how well “imported” concepts grasp the empirical reality in the countries under discussion remains open.
Based on the designated problem area, the workshop is aimed at a dialogue between researchers of cultural diversity, each focusing on a specific country with a Soviet past. The discussion will be built around the following thematic areas:

  • What are the major shifts in the political accommodation of cultural diversity in Estonia, Ukraine, and Russia during the past three decades? To what extent does the legacy of Soviet nationalities policy affect contemporary discourses on cultural diversity there?
  • How does the subjectivation of certain individuals as belonging to minorities occur through legislative regulation, social organization, and symbolic policies in these countries?
  • What does “integration” mean as a category of analysis and a category of practice in relation to those who are referred to as “minorities” in Estonia, Ukraine, and Russia? To what extent does Russian military aggression against Ukraine affect perceptions of belonging to a symbolic majority in all three countries?

Elo-Hanna Seljamaa, associate professor of Estonian and Comparative Folklore at the University of Tartu Institute of Cultural Research, DAAD guest professor at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology at the University of Göttingen

Akif Tahiiev, research and teaching assistant in the Department of Private International Law and Comparative Law at Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University, visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

Mark Simon, research fellow at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology at the University of Göttingen

Here you can register for the 11th Migration Research Lab on 29th June 2023, 12:15 - 13:45 (CEST):

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