Conference projects

After the Empires? Ukraine’s (Post-)Colonial Entanglements

Summer school

Ever since Russia launched its full-scale war against Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Ukraine has been the focus of attention on a global scale. Most commonly, the Russo-Ukrainian war has been explained, both in Ukraine and abroad, by applying the conceptual apparatus of Postcolonial Theory. In this vein, Putin’s aggression has been interpreted as a continuation of the centuries-old “Russian colonization.” Ukrainian resistance, in turn, has been largely recognized as an “anticolonial war” going hand in hand with a “decolonial” “canceling of Russian culture.”

Such univocal explanations, however, do not do justice to Ukraine’s multifaceted interactions with multiple imperial centers in the past and in the present, esp. with the Russian and the Soviet one. Moreover, they seemingly disregard Ukraine’s conflicting, often polyvalent memories and cultural self-identifications, which arise from different imperial experiences, presenting the country’s history as a kind of teleological unity. But can this understanding of Ukraine’s “postcoloniality” really cover the complexity of Ukraine’s cultural, political, social, and economic situation “after the empires”? And can Postcolonial Theory and Postimperial Studies be pulled back from the clutches of propagandistic oversimplification in times of war-induced mobilization?

Using this as a starting point, the upcoming summer academy will try to figure out how both Postcolonial Theory and Postimperial Studies can possibly remain productive for the analysis of the highly complex and dynamic balances of power and knowledge between culturally and ethnically related “colonizers” and “colonized.” What historical and cultural backgrounds does Ukrainian “postcoloniality” (or “postimperiality”) imply and what modes of interaction with imperial centers did it develop in the course of time? Can Ukrainian situation after 1991 (and after February 2022) be compared to the situation in other Eastern European (post-socialist, post-communist, post-Soviet) countries, such as Belarus or Poland, and if yes—what insights can such a comparison produce? Is there any space for the exploration of postcolonial complexities in wartime? What are the possible pitfalls for employing postcolonial/postimperial vocabulary and analytical tools?

The summer academy on Ukraine “After the Empires” will deal with these and other issues in a transdisciplinary manner. Basing on historical and contemporary Ukrainian examples, it will at the same time try to contextualize the phenomenon of “postcolonial Ukraine” within the “postcolonial Eastern Europe” and within the global debates on post- and decoloniality. We will thus focus on the specific profile of Ukraine’s post-socialist postcoloniality/postimperiality as compared to the postcolonialities in “classic” oversee colonies. On top of that, we will discuss other—non-Russian and non-Soviet—postcolonial/postimperial continuities, such as the legacies of the “Western” Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Habsburg Empire. Hereby, a highly complex relation between postcoloniality and nationalism, as well as various nationalist appropriations of the postcolonial discourse for the sake of “national consolidation” will be addressed. Ultimately, we will try to figure out what these multiple postcolonial/postimperial positionalities mean for the theory and how the theory could help us in understanding Ukrainian situation during and after the war.

All attendees will get a chance to work intensively on these topics for one week in Greifswald. During this time, they will also have multiple possibilities to network with other junior and experienced academics and scholars.

The application period has been extended and now ends on July 7, 2023.

More information 

Related Files

Back to Eventlist

Conference Office

Phone +49 3834 420 - 5015
Fax +49 3834 420 - 5005