Speakers E–H

The Making of Geopolitics in the Everyday of Labor Migrants and Cross-Border Traders in Kyrgyzstan

In Kyrgyzstan the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the subsequent de-industrialization has produced new and intensified existing mobile strategies, most popularly North-migration (to Russia) and cross-border trade with China. Social and spatial mobility in this context are closely intertwined and often envisioned as a necessary strategy to provide for the family and to develop professionally. Based on ethnographic research in a train from St. Petersburg to Bishkek and back, and at the Dordoi Bazaar in Bishkek, one of the largest retail hubs in Eurasia, I examine the negotiation of large-scale geopolitical transformation in individual accounts and practices of traders and labor migrants. Developing and applying the notion of “everyday geopolitics”, in this article, I critically engage with the common presentation of Kyrgyzstan as a passive actor subdue to competing interests of foreign stakeholders. Doing so, I show that the discursive presentation of foreign policy projects like the Chinese’ "Belt and Road" initiative (BRI) and the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), are actively debated and have real consequences for the lives and practices of mobile actors like traders and migrants. Both initiatives promote the spread of territorial imaginations like 'trade corridors', 'crossroads' and 'near abroad'. The making of these spaces includes a set of changing regulations of inclusion and exclusion to economic, geopolitical, ideological, and also physical boundaries. For the people moving within this shifting territorial framework, it is not only the official regulations that channel their movement, however. Focusing on the ways in which mobile practices are embedded in historical, religious, economic, and social ties, allows to better understand how geopolitical transformation are lived and made meaningful on the ground. Taking seriously the production of everyday geopolitics is crucial, especially considering the country’s growing dependency on Russia and China (which are cooperating and competing agents in Kyrgyzstan) as well as rising sinophobic and nationalistic sentiments in the population.

The Emotional Implications in Migration Decision-Making as Reflected by Polish Women Migrants in the UK

Background Since the Accession 8 (A8) of the European Union in 2004 the United Kingdom has experienced a significant influx of European Union Member State migrants. Although the A8 migration has been studied widely, and despite the fact that in view of the European context women migrants outnumber their male counterparts, migration decisions in particular in relation to Polish women migrants are still in need of further research. This paper intends to investigate how Polish women migrants have reflected on their mobility decisions by in particularly investigating the emotional factors entangled in their mobility experiences. Methods Combining life story interviews conducted with three generational cohorts of Polish women, literary works and autoethnographic reflections on mobility as well as secondary data, this paper explores the experience of migration predominantly in relation to migration decision making processes. The qualitative inquiry is based on a feminist methodology with the aim to surface alternative perspectives to representations of the women’s voices. The autoethnographic approach of this research calls for self-reflexivity, which is critical to the enactment and analysis since the author is a migrant herself. Results The findings are crafted into a multivocal account composed around themes that have surfaced in the narratives (either interviews, literature or autoethnographic reflections) and are interwoven with ‘authorial stiches’ as well as connected to the wider migration discourse. The paper purposes a multi-layered and complex reflection on the experience of migration which neither mainstream scholarship nor the affected individual can comprehend otherwise. The results offer an account which is personal, local and political therefore aware of both discourse and larger socio-cultural and geopolitical panorama, but not centred around dominant narratives of migration. As such the research moves away from quantitative investigations but instead acknowledges personal voices which might have been unheard within other empirical studies. Conclusions The different women’s voices presented in this paper point to the fact that migration decision-making in contrast to economic and rationalistic models, is also intertwined with different strands of personal, cultural, social and emotional factors, which play a key role in the mobility experience and often override the aim to merely improve life and working conditions.

«Dacha» Migration and Features of «Squeezed» Bodies of Older People in Karelia During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The aim of the report is to study the experience of bodily practices and the characteristics of agency of older people who were forced to move to their dachas during the COVID-19 pandemic (suburban houses).

For Russians, the migration of residents of megacities to country houses has become a reaction to the pandemic, a characteristic social-group strategy of health-saving behavior. However, such migration has both positive sides - for example, both one of the ways to avoid hypodenamia, and negative sides associated with the isolation and isolation of the older and the infrastructure deficit that exists in rural areas. A focus on bodily agency and sensations is more than just a methodological tool adding yet another dimension to data analysis (Csordas 1997, 6). The fact that informants semiotically use the body to express their feelings, does not reduce it to a mediator or a site for cultural symbolism (Csordas 1997, 12). The body is both a thing one has and what one is (Leder 2004, 60) and as such allows the researcher to transcend the dualism between space and location, between body and mind, between self and other, and particularly in moments of transformation. A phenomenological lens allows us to examine closely both the habitual affective dispositions and the psychosocial and somatic consequences of their distortion (Chao 2020, 2; Csordas 1990)

The study is based on 15 ethnographic cases with older people from Petrozavodsk and St. Petersburg, who came to dachas in the Republic of Karelia during the pandemic. In total, within the framework of the cases, 30 in-depth interviews with older people and 28 observation diaries were collected, which characterize the different dynamics and features of bodily perception and agency of older people living in dachas during the pandemic. Findings and conclusions The report will show that the isolation and additional restrictions that are added to the usual infrastructural shortage of dachas, where rural residents come, create difficulties with bodily sensations and dacha migration during a pandemic, created for my informants the feeling of «squeezed» bodies associated with the inability to go to the city or to move around the area and the need to be in the dacha space, which is not prepared and creates various difficulties for older urban residents. Thus, embodiment constrains the bodies of older people, which in turn is a factor influencing both physical and mental health in the context of various constraints. Using the example of the study of corporality, the report will develop a discussion about how in the context of migration, including the dacha migration of older people in Russia, the peculiarities of the perception of spaces and roles of spaces can be studied from the point of view of the body and the possibilities of spatial limitations of agency due to a specific place.

Chao, Sophie. 2020. “Health, Harm, Habitus: Techniques of the Body in COVID-19.” https://thesiseleven.com/2020/07/07/health-harm-habitus-techniques-of-th.... Csordas, Thomas J. 1990. “Embodiment as a Paradigm for Anthropology.” Ethos 18(1): 5-47. Csordas, Thomas J. 1997. “Introduction: The Body as Representation and Being-in-the-world.” In Embodiment and Experience: The Existential Ground of Culture and Self edited by Thomas J. Csordas, 1-26. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Leder, Drew. 2004. “Imprisoned Bodies: The Life-world of the Incarcerated.” Social Justice 31(95-96): 51-66.

How Does Politicizing Immigration Impact Authoritarian Support? Evidence from Russia 

Existing studies make clear that the issue of immigration is capable of substantially altering incumbent state leader support, but there is little agreement on how. Thus while anti-migrant sentiment has fueled populist opposition to incumbent governments in some countries, incumbents in others not only remain unscathed but often turn the “migration issue” to their advantage, mobilizing popular hostility to reap “rally ’round the leader” effects. Almost all previous research on this topic, however, has been conducted in democracies. This is unfortunate. Not only are the sources of authoritarian support important to understand, but authoritarian countries are some of the world’s largest migration destination states. While it is widely presumed that authoritarians can gin up support by mobilizing anti-migrant sentiment, whether this is actually the case remains an open question. This paper therefore asks: Can incumbent authoritarian leaders improve their domestic political appeal by politicizing the issue of migration? To answer this question, the study focuses on Russian Federation, the world’s largest authoritarian migrant-destination country. It does so at a time when Russia’s state-controlled media were documented to be stoking anti-migrant sentiment (2013), which one might expect should redound favorably upon state leadership that controls these media. In this context, the study employs a survey experiment in which a randomly selected parts of a nationally representative sample of Russians are primed to have the issue of migration in mind before being asked who they would support in presidential elections. The results are a considerable surprise for the common wisdom. Instead of gaining, Russia’s authoritarian leader loses substantial support when people are led to reflect on the migration issue. The primary gainers are nationalist alternatives such as Communist Party of the Russian Federation leader Gennady Zyuganov and LDPR chief Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Putin’s political losses come primarily from among the less educated, the economically suffering, the ethnocentric, the xenophobic, and those in certain personal contacts with migrants. He gains only among people who strongly dislike the political system, with it backfiring among the much larger share of the population who like it. The results indicate that the immigration issue is not only of more limited utility for authoritarians than often thought, but that it could be a threat to their power, making it more a resource for opposition than incumbent politicians.

Authoritarian Context and Outsider Position in Fieldwork on Migration in Russia

This presentation explores the impact of the Russian authoritarian environment on Western researchers conducting qualitative research on migration in the Russian Federation. We utilize experiences from fieldwork conducted in 2017 in the city of Moscow, which explored the daily lives of Central Asian migrant workers working in the shadow economy. We identify issues, which are relevant for understanding and evaluating the collected data in environments and target groups where getting access and gaining trust have specific challenges. Our experiences indicate that the effect of the authoritarian context warrants close examination as a part of the research design. The impact of the environment was critically related to the ethical side of fieldwork and subsequent reporting, the effect of which on the studied individuals and communities should be carefully assessed. Practical and psychological pressures during the fieldwork challenge objectivity. Yet, in fieldwork, foreign researchers´ intersectional and hybrid roles can transcend the outsider-insider dichotomy typically underlined in connection to authoritarian societies and closed communities. To strengthen trust in their work, and to increase the relevance of their work for theory development, researchers should evaluate data from environments such as Russia realistically, and report their data collection process openly.

This paper is co-authored with Kaarina Aitamurto.

Livestock and People in the Karelian Evacuations 1939 and 1944  

This paper deals with the Karelian evacuations in December 1939 and July 1944, specifically a farming community that was forced from its land by the approaching Red Army. The paper is part of an ongoing book on the subject. The sources used are the unpublished correspondence and a collection of written memories of the community. My material is from the municipality of Harlu, located north Ladoga.

There is much literature on the evacuations, but cattle are typically overlooked. However, they were among the most precious assets of the farmers. There were severe restriction of foodstuffs, due to widespread shortages. The cattle was often a lifesaver to the Karelians who had to leave everything else behind. The letters and contemporary stories however show that livestock was not only an asset. People also had a strong emotional bond to it. They named their cows and often treated them like pets.

The first evacuation during the Winter War was carried out quickly and it surprised many. The material show very different reactions to the traumatic displacement; some farmers hoped to return, others burned their houses and killed their pets. In Harlu, that evacuation took place at night in conditions of severe frost. Hundreds of cows were transported on the same train as the residents. 20-30 cows in one carriage and about 65 people in a similar one. It was cramped, trains were bombed. Animal sounds are a typical evacuation memory.

The second evacuation took place more systematically, in July 1944. Since it was summer, most cattle were transported on foot, and by barge. Temperatures were exceptionally warm, and conditions again miserable. There was not enough food and water for the cattle; in the barges, the cattle were in their own dirt, where they also had to be milked. Many withered on the way. The escorts were mostly young girls, even 14-16 years old. Some traveled more than 700 kilometers from Harlu to Lappajärvi. They wore out several pairs of wooden shoes during the trip.

My research also addresses the political decision-making behind evacuations and resettlement of Karelian farmers, as well as the identity, cultural and economical conflicts that took place when more than 400,000 Karelians were relocated across Finland and landowners had to give up their property. I look at how political decisions were reflected in everyday practice and atmosphere. J.K. Paasikivi's emerges as a key figure, as he negotiated peace conditions in both wars with Stalin and Molotov. He was also eager to comment and influence the resettlement legislation. Eventually he too had to hand over some land to the migrants, reluctantly.

This paper adds a fresh perspective to the existing literature on the war and the Karelian evacuation.