Ukraine's Resilience: Internal Displacement and Migrant Integration after Russian Occupation

Saturday, April 16, 2016
Aria B (DoubleTree by Hilton Philadelphia Center City)
Greta Uehling , International Studies, University of Michigan
The spectacular occupation of the Crimean peninsula and the hostilities in the Donbas region have displaced some 1.4 million. This paper explores Ukraine’s capacity for resilience. The displaced lack significant state support and rely on volunteers, non-governmental organizations – and themselves. Drawing upon data from recent field research, the paper explores the utility of Williams’ (1977) concept of structures of feeling for elucidating how the thoughts and feelings of the internally displaced articulate with the broader social and political structures and conditions that enable them. I suggest this theoretical approach could prove innovative for uncovering lived experiences like resilience across Europe, by deferring their description in terms of predefined categories.

The Russian occupation is understood by indigenous Crimean Tatars through the lens of previous oppression. Far from another discourse of victimization, however, a structure of feeling centered on personal agency and self-actualization is developing. Stating the narrative of victimhood outlived its usefulness, and experiencing a sense of empowerment in displacement, they see an opportunity to develop. Taped interviews reveal a constellation of feelings centered on curiosity, happiness, and gratitude. Resilience is also evident in Ukraine’s reception of IDPs. New narratives about a shared history and common identity in officials' discourse are replacing the ambivalence, ignorance, and suspicion expressed toward ethnic others in the past. If structures of feeling in the revolution of dignity precipitate into robust and vibrant institutions of civil society, this will have implications for Ukraine's future and Europe as a whole.

  • Uehling CES Ukraine Resilience pdf.docx (102.9 kB)