The Authentic Village and the Modern City: The Space-Time of Class Identities in Urban Western Ukraine

Elizabeth A Peacock

Abstract


With increasing migration, the divisions between rural and urban spaces are becoming both more pronounced and more ambiguous, complicating territorial bases of the nation-state. In Ukraine, the nation is intimately rooted in the rural, however, this same rurality can also be viewed as a hindrance to the nation becoming an equal member in the global community. These competing notions of Ukrainian identity can be seen in how teenagers view themselves as members of a wider, global community, and their views of the opportunities and life trajectories available to them as members of the Ukrainian nation. Western Ukrainian teenagers’ perceptions of rural and urban places include notions of temporality that are associated with each kind of space and the inhabitants of each space. Competing discourses of the Ukrainian nation can be better understood by examining how debates over the role of the village reflect underlying notions of temporal and spatial meaning, which help shape how young people come to define who they are and who they hope to become.

I propose that the incorporation of the rural as a site for creating and sustaining a Ukrainian identity differs among urban teenagers in western Ukraine due to socioeconomic class. While both working and middle class teenagers view the Ukrainian nation as borne of a rural pastoral, they construct different paradigms of the rural and its relationship to the urban spaces in which they live. Those of the middle class see rural spaces as “lost in time,” places that have been unaffected by the rest of modern society. The working class, in contrast, continues to view rural spaces, and the people that inhabit them, as valuable in sustaining authentic Ukrainian culture, which they see as threatened by the anonymity of modern urban life. I apply a chronotopic lens of analysis to show how these different paradigms of the rural and urban are connected to different understandings of Ukrainian identity, history, and the aspirations of the Ukrainian nation.


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