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  • 2022KuzemskaPhD

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'Don't Be Afraid of Our Citizens': Internally Displaced People Encounter Bordering and Othering in Ukraine

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2022
Number of pages509
Awarding Institution
Award date28/01/2022
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The Eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas has been the epicentre of a political and military conflict between Ukrainian armed forces and Russian-backed separatists since spring 2014. This confrontation has resulted in the biggest current forced displacement in Europe – 1.7mln people. The proclamation of two unrecognized states – Donetsk and Luhansk ‘People’s Republics’ – has de facto changed the borders of Ukraine; including not only the physical, but also the symbolic borders of what makes a Ukrainian citizen. The imaginaries of Ukrainianness have transformed for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Donbas. Coming from a historically and now politically ambiguous region, IDPs have to navigate between constituting themselves as rightful, deserving, and loyal citizens of Ukraine, while also balancing their Donbas origins, currently contested as not Ukrainian enough (or not Ukrainian at all) among fellow citizens. I argue that everyday borderwork, specifically the counter-bordering and counter-othering practices of IDPs, makes them Ukrainian citizens. I use ‘border as a method’ (Mezzadra & Neilson, 2013a), with a double gaze on the borders of Ukrainianness as both an object and a lens. Thus, on the one hand, I examine how IDPs challenge the predominant narrow understandings of what constitutes a ‘good’ Ukrainian citizen and contribute to its broadening through what I define as counter-bordering and counter-othering practices. These are ‘acts of citizenship’ (Isin & Nielsen, 2008) grouped under three main ‘sites of struggle’ for citizenship covered in respective chapters: belonging (Home), deservingness (Help), and loyalty as safety (Hazard). On the other hand, I look at the borders of Ukrainianness as a lens to see the wider context of contemporary challenges and limits surrounding citizenship interpretations, which the Ukrainian example sheds light on. My thesis is based on multi-method ethnography and secondary data collected during October 2015-March 2016 in an IDP hub uniting four IDP-led/oriented NGOs in the capital city of Kyiv, and on subsequent follow-up on the situation via established social networks and the monitoring of official reporting on IDPs in Ukraine.