Accepted paper:

Donbas dramas: Displacement in place, temporal re-orientation and emplacement within recognisable futures


Emma Rimpilainen (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses the temporality and spatiality of displacement and emplacement in the war-torn region of Donbas in Eastern Ukraine and suggests that displacement in space relates to re-orientation in time.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the temporal and spatial logic of displacement and emplacement through an ethnography of Donbas in Eastern Ukraine as a displacement-creating region. It illustrates how withdrawal of the state, in the form of infrastructure that secures the future, may create displacement in place. While to many inhabitants of Donbas the outbreak of war in 2014 brought with it a total disruption of usual patterns of life, to some of them displacement had, in some sense, already occurred in place, but did not come to fruition as movement across space until 2014. The war actualised the unfulfilled migration intentions of especially young people, who recognised that the region was turning into one without a future. Ukrainian independence and statehood in this Post-Soviet borderland had become associated with rising unemployment, collapsing social security, and lack of investment in the region's mines and heavy industries, former flagships of the Soviet project. After the war broke out, the conditions in Donbas deteriorated further. The majority of my informants agreed that it would make no sense to return to Donbas even if the war ended, because the region has no future. They tried to readjust their temporal orientation to the present instead of a past that had been lost and a future that remained uncertain. To do this, they strived to become emplaced within recognisable state structures which would allow life to flow in a predictable way. Sometimes this emplacement was imagined possible only through continued mobility abroad.

panel B02
Geographies and anthropologies of the state: places, persons and nonhumans