The kick-off event of the BYRD postdoc network “Rethinking Ukrainian Studies: Understanding the Country through Ukrainian Voices”

The panel discussion “Ukrainian studies in times of war: ways forward” organized by the BYRD postdoc network took place on February 20, 2023. Aiming to situate the current state of Ukrainian studies in and outside of Ukraine in the context of the ongoing Russian invasion, it brought in the voices of Ukrainian researchers from different disciplines to discuss new challenges and opportunities alike that they face now under wartime conditions, from difficulties with field access to shifting perceptions of Ukraine as well as the potential for the study of Ukraine to challenge prevailing concepts or contribute to new theory-building in their respective disciplines.

The invited panelists included Dr. Tamara Martsenyuk (Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy), Dr. Inna Melnykovska (Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Central European University; Fellow, HWK Delmenhorst), and Dr. Artem Zakharchenko (Associate Professor, Institute of Journalism, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv/ Research Director, Center for Content Analysis; Visiting Fellow, Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research, University of Bremen). The discussion was moderated by Dr. Mariia Shkolnykova (postdoctoral researcher, FB 07, University of Bremen) and Oksana Chorna (PhD candidate, FB 08, Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences).

After providing their inputs, the panelists responded to questions from the moderators and from the audience. One question was whether it is unethical for scholars of an invaded country to write about internal problems of the state such as corruption, human rights violations, or centralization of power, thus potentially risking a decrease in support from Western and international allies. In the opinion of Dr. Artem Zakharchenko, there should be no forbidden topics of research; however, scholars should aim to prevent their results from being used for the purposes of propaganda. All speakers agree that the war, in fact, has facilitated intense discussions regarding corruption and its negative effects on society, for example. Also, the panelists were asked about the most relevant research topics related to Ukraine after the end of the war. According to Dr. Inna Melnykovska, key questions in political science include, for instance, how a notionally “weak state” such as Ukraine has shown strength and resilience in the face of invasion or what accounts for the social component of businesses currently operating in Ukraine, many of which continue to pay salaries and taxes despite a drastic fall in their profits. Finally, the integration of Ukraine into the EU is already happening bottom-up, often lacking necessary legislative frameworks. Overall, the event was very informative and provided interesting insights.

The next event is the presentation of the book “The Zelensky Effect” by Dr. Olga Onuch (in-person) and Dr. Henry Hale (online) on April 28, 2023. All details will be announced later.

These events are financed by the Bremen Early Career Researcher Development and the Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen. Dr. Ekaterina Paustyan from the Professorship of Institutional Economics is a co-initiator of this BYRD postdoc network.

Ukraine event