Prisma Ukraïna

Viktoriya Sereda

Prisma Ukraïna: War, Migration, Memory

Previous Fellowships: 2022/ 2023

Viktoria Sereda is a sociologist, head coordinator of the Virtual Ukraine Institute for Advanced Study (VUIAS) and academic senior advisor to the research group Prisma Ukraïna War, Migration, Memory. She initiated and directed the project from 2022-23. Prior to this, she was a fellow at the Imre Kertesz Kolleg at the University of Jena. Since 2020, she has also been a senior research fellow at the Institute of Ethnology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and a professor at the department of Sociology at the Ukrainian Catholic University. In the spring semester of 2021, she was a visiting lecturer at the University of Basel. Sereda has either led or participated in over 30 sociological research projects on Ukrainian society and its regional dimensions. From 2011 to 2017, she was the head of the sociological team for the project “Region, Nation and Beyond: An Interdisciplinary and Transcultural Reconceptualization of Ukraine”, organized by the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. In 2016/17 and 2019/20 she was the MAPA Research Fellow at the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University, where she developed a digital atlas of social changes in Ukraine after the Euromaidan.


Prisma Ukraïna War, Migration, Memory

Within a broader project frame, Viktoria Sereda explores the dynamic entanglement of migration and memory from socio-anthropological perspectives. The studies on the transformation of memory politics and mnemonic practices in the region usually focus on institutional dimensions or nation-wide trends, politics of memory, or narratives produced by the political elites, memory laws, etc. Mnemonic processes linked to the (re)articulation of the sense of belonging, triggered by the armed conflict and under the influx of IDPs or refugees, received much less attention. She proposes to approach these processes by exploring the complicated relationship of memory with belonging and the everyday experiences of both displaced people and their receiving communities.

Her point of departure is that a sense of belonging, challenged by war and displacement, is fundamentally a temporal and spatial experience. It is anchored in people’s everyday interactions with the built environment and social groups. The temporal location of their belonging includes an understanding of how time is experienced (for example, it focuses on the ruptures of the natural flow of biographical time, such as "before and after the beginning of the war"), as well as how memory (of the event or family narratives) and attitudes toward the past are utilized in creating sense of belonging.


Prisma Ukraïna: War, Migration and Memory

Since February 2022, the massive migration of the Ukrainian displaced population fleeing the Russian full-scale invasion, the largest in Europe since the Second World War, could be perceived in various contexts – local, national, regional, and global – and in connection to both the relocation of Ukrainian internally displaced persons (IDPs) after the Russian invasions of Crimea and the Donbas in 2014 and to the series of recent refugee crises in the EU. Immigration has become a prominent international and national governance issue and a subject of political debates that expose anxieties and concerns about the borders, identities, and hierarchies of belonging in the affected countries. Current policies are mostly focused on migrants’ or refugees’ access to economic resources or to political participation. This project focuses on the socio-cultural aspects of refugees’ and migrants’ adaptation, changing collective and individual communicative and cultural memories, and temporal dimensions of belonging that are often overlooked, although they are important factors of social in- or exclusion and othering. It offers a multi-scalar perspective on the transformational effects of war and dislocation on people’s memory and sense of belonging, both for those on move and the receiving communities. Migrants’ sense of belonging, challenged by war and displacement, is shaped through everyday interactions with built environments, social groups, and official and unofficial spheres. The study of the temporal location of belonging includes exploration of how time is experienced (e.g., how the natural flow of biographical time, such as ‘before and after the beginning of the war’, is interrupted), as well as how memory and attitudes towards the past are utilized in creating a sense of belonging and underscore the refugees’ agency. It also analyzes how war-caused migration influences discussions on the politics of memory and identity in academia and in media outlets in the region, marginalizing some issues, such as the Polish-Ukrainian ‘memory wars’, and rearticulating others, such as decommunization and decolonization policies.