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Accepted Paper:

“Why not simply residents of Estonia?”: studying the “other” in the Baltics  
Marija Norkunaite (Vilnius University)

Paper short abstract:

While issues of ethnicity affect my Russian speaking interlocutors’ interactions with the national state in the Baltics, what they rather want is to be perceived as fully-fledged state subjects and not just minorities. Confusing the needs of minorities, we as researchers often fall in the same trap.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines three former socialist cities in the Baltics: Visaginas in Lithuania; Sillamӓe in Estonia; and Daugavpils in Latvia. Being vanguard sites of socialism, all three experienced dramatic transformations after the collapse of the Soviet Union, including major economic restructurings, searches for post-socialist identity, and tensions with the titular nation - and hence the now national state - caused by the specific ethnic composition of their populations.Due to the latter, with the majority of the residents in all three cities being Russian speakers, most research on these sites in particular or Russian speaking minorities in the Baltics more generally focuses on questions of identity, belonging, etc., which are inevitably bound with issues of ethnicity, language, and/or citizenship. This often limits our gaze as researchers when it comes to more universal experiences of our interlocutors; for example, their experiences as working subjects and/or taxpayers. Whereas this was exactly what my interlocutors were striving against: issues related to their ethnicity were nonetheless important and affected their everyday interactions with the nowadays state; however, what my interlocutors wanted was to be perceived and treated as fully-fledged state subjects rather than just minorities.Therefore, this paper asks to what extent do interlocutors internalize the language and categories offered to them by the state (“Russian-speaking minorities”) and whether we as researchers reproduce the existing power regime by studying our interlocutors primarily as Russian speakers, documenting their experiences in a “nationalizing state”, hence supporting what the Baltic State is telling itself about itself.

Panel Speak05a
Researching against the grain: correspondence and conflict between individual representation and the anthropological metanarrative I
  Session 1 Tuesday 30 March, 2021, -