Understanding the City: Anthropology of Post-Socialist Transformations

Participants of the workshop on anthropology

It is the third year now that the team of the Center for Applied Anthropology organizes workshops for young scholars. During the two previous years, the researchers focused on the problems of marginalization. This year, they decided to focus on urban problematics and post-socialist context.

Presentation of a participant as part of the workshop

A round table on art, research and business

Post-socialist cities have a lot of potential for anthropological research. On the one hand, they have vivid cultural and social characteristics, but on the other hand, the voices of their inhabitants often remain unheard when these cities face the inevitable numerous transformations. The organizers tried to look at post-socialist cities as spaces where they can observe a clash of experiences from people coming from different ideological and economic systems.

Transformations always change the usual way of life, so citizens usually perceive them as a line between “it’s going to get better” and “I hope it doesn’t get worse.” People’s attitude to change primarily depends on the scenarios they have encountered before, and the fear of new things may turn out to actually be a fear to lose something important from the old system. Where do we find the balance here?

This is what inspired the subject of the workshop on urban anthropology “Understanding the City: Anthropology of Post-Socialist Transformations,” which took place in Kyiv on October 3–4.

The event brought together 12 scholars, activists and experts from Ukraine, the UK, Germany, Poland and Russia. All of them had different experience with academia, having worked on sociology, anthropology, history or psychology. During two days, they presented their reports, debated and drew inspiration from various subjects categorized into four thematic panels: (1) the right to the city, (2) industrial heritage, (3) memory in the urban space, and (4) the cultural landscape of post-socialist cities.

Understanding the city. Anthropology of post - socialist transformations. Workshop. Kyiv 2019 - Experimental Films

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Understanding the city. Anthropology of post - socialist transformations. Workshop. Kyiv 2019 - Experimental Films

video-thumbnail Watch on YouTube

The workshop included not only academic part, but also some practice. The event started with a keynote lecture by Mikhail Alekseevskiy “Applied Urban Anthropology” and ended with a round table “Anthropology in Applied Urban Research,” where the experts and workshop participants got together to discuss how research can ensure a positive impact for urban communities.

All pictures from the event can be viewed here.

The event was organized in organizational partnership with Heinrich Boell Foundation, Kyiv Office — Ukraine, Center for Governance and Culture in Europe University of St. Gallen, The Working Group on Religion in the Black Sea Region, the Scientific Research Institute for Ukrainian Studies, and Yevhen Kravchenko Library for Youth.

Photos and video by Olena Cheban