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In these notes from the field, I will think ethnographically about the ways in which Latvia’s rural inhabitants live what is referred to as the “emptying of the countryside.” I will also consider how and with what effect policy makers, scholars, and intellectuals constitute the phenomenon of rural emptiness as a problem of migration and a problem of demography thought to have dire consequences for the life of the nation. In oscillating between these different registers of living and talking about the emptiness, my aim is to trace what Kathleen Stewart has called “a contact zone for analysis” without definitively enclosing it in particular interpretive frames. In the midst of research, I wish to see whether and how dwelling in this “contact zone” can generate insights that are overlooked by scholarly and political discourses concerned with migration and demography.
Keywords: emptying of the countryside, life, nation, migration, Latvia.
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