What's going on in Ukraine?

Silencing and backtalk: Scenes from the Crimean Occupation

The editors of Anthropoliteia would again like to welcome the fifth in a series of special guest posts from Monica Eppinger as part of our developing Forum What’s Going on in Ukraine?

There’s a phrase in Russian, tikhiy uzhas, “quiet horror”. For some in Crimea, that would summarize the week between March 4 and March 11 .

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What's going on in Ukraine?

Spirit of the Gift, wartime edition

The editors of Anthropoliteia would again like to welcome the fourth in a series of special guest posts from Monica Eppinger as part of our developing Forum What’s Going on in Ukraine?

March 4: another day of occupation, another day of no bloodshed. Wonders never cease.

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What's going on in Ukraine?

The neither/nor of a bloodless war in Crimea

The editors of Anthropoliteia would again like to welcome the third in a series of special guest posts from Monica Eppinger as part of our developing Forum What’s Going on in Ukraine?
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DragNet, What's going on in Ukraine?

Recap of Ukraine Coverage

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What's going on in Ukraine?

Bakhtin at the front

The editors of Anthropoliteia would like to welcome a special guest post from Monica Eppinger as part of our developing Forum What’s Going on in Ukraine?

I’m an anthropologist of law and other serious speech acts, with fieldwork concentrated in Ukraine. Meg and Kevin asked me, “What’s going on over there?” I’ll try to give a range of possible answers in a series of posts.

Over the weekend, after reports of foreign troops taking over Crimea circulated in Kyiv, one prominent Ukrainian took to the internet urging several resistance tactics. Some were predictable: national unity, “information warfare.” But one was not: laughter. His reasoning was, it’s the best way to counter those whose tactics are meant to inspire fear and hatred. Plus, it has the advantage of surprise.

Troops taking over (or besieging) Ukrainian military installations and neighboring residential neighborhoods across Crimea have faced a sea of cell phone-cameras. In the initial footage that’s reached me, I’ve noticed a second “secret weapon” at Ukrainians’ disposal, discourse. Ukrainians have not lost the intense passion for or engagement in discourse that Alexei Yurchak describes marking the late Soviet period.  The readiness to engage in it seems to take the interlocutors by surprise.

And so, this footage: On the front, armed with discourse and laughter.  In this encounter, a Ukrainian journalist interviews men who have taken over a Ukrainian installation in Balaklava, Sevastopl (a part of Crimea, Ukraine). The journalist is, himself, questioned by women standing nearby (who seem to be local employees of the installation, or family members of employees). (Even if you don’t understand Russian, you can get the flavor of the interaction.)

The men are in unmarked uniforms but one wears a baseball cap with the name of a Russian city, Ryazan (where a famous paratrooper school is located). The journalist asks the men why their uniforms have no insignia. His line of questions is as much inquiry as it is an invitation to self-reflection along a certain logical argument.

— He says, “What do you call it when the armed forces of a foreign country occupy the territory and government installations of another country? That’s called war, isn’t it?”
— He points out, “Sooner or later, war means death.”
— He reminds them that their president (Putin) is insisting that there are no Russian Federation troops in Crimea, only local “self-defense forces.”
— He asks them, “So why don’t your uniforms have any insignia? Your beautiful country, your beautiful president, has sent you here in uniforms without any identifying marks.” His camera investigates: No country indicators, no rank indicators, no flags, no nothing. [He zooms in on the only identifying mark on the battle-ready newcomer, which is a Batman pin.] “Don’t you realize, when the shooting starts, your country is not going to acknowledge you as its soldier? How do you want to be remembered after your death?”

Heavy questions, light touch. And such bravery.

Monica Eppinger is an Assistant Professor at the Saint Louis University College of Law. She has extensive experience in diplomacy, serving nine years as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service with tours of duty at the U.S. Consulate General in Kaduna, Nigeria; U.S. Embassy, Kiev, Ukraine; and at the State Department in Washington, D.C. where her responsibilities included policy in the former Soviet Union, Caspian basin energy development, and West African security. Her research concentrates on sovereignty and selfhood. Her main areas of expertise include property, national security, and international law.
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What's going on in Ukraine?

Some thoughts on Ukraine

The editors of Anthropoliteia would like to welcome a special guest post from Michael Bobick as part of our developing Forum What’s Going on in Ukraine?

Much of what has been fascinating in Ukraine has been how perceptions of public order have framed interpretations of this conflict. The Maidan protesters certainly wrote another chapter in the ‘how to topple a corrupt government’ handbook that is, from the Russian perspective, far more dangerous than any particular nationalist regime might be. If unrest rises in Russia and a viable protest movement emerges (think motorcycle helmets and molotovs, not signs and chants), they will look to the experience of Maidan. The escalation of the conflict was, from the Russian perspective, something that should never have had to happen. Like in Kazakhstan (google Zhanaozen ) or Uzbekistan (Andijan), autocrats tend to stomp open dissent out before it can morph into something autonomous like Maidan. These suppressions as a rule occur off the books and without further inquiry. Yet it is precisely this idea of accountability that drove Yanukovch from Ukraine (that, along with an awkward telephone call from Putin). 

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What's going on in Ukraine?

What’s going on in Ukraine?

One thing I’m a bit embarrassed by is how paltry our coverage of the events in Ukraine have been over the past few weeks.  I’m sure I’m not alone in watching from afar and being fascinated with what is happening, but I have no special expertise in the region.  Does anyone from our readership?

One thing that’s fascinated me in particular is how quickly the state of policing shifted, and what this potentially means for how we think about such things as “police,” “state,” “violence,” and “democracy.”  You know, all those classic elements of Police Studies that draw on Weber.

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