Ukraine and Russia: The Agency of War

The war in Russia and Ukraine is as much a war of consciousness and ideologies as it is a war of militias with guns, tanks, and Buk missile launchers. While in no way intending to minimize the physical violence of this war, our task as social observers and cultural theorists has been to create space to consider the significance of this war for social relationships and social contracts, political self-images and constructions of country, sovereignty, and the sacred. This war has created conceptual partitions stronger and longer lasting than any border. It has hardened and shattered allegiances. It has been a proving ground for mediated tactics and propaganda strategies, a broad theater to demonstrate authoritarian command. These essays explore the complexity (and tragedy) of what is being done and undone in this war, the ambivalences of lived reality and the intangible forms of chaos being contrived in that reality. They take this war as a “state of exception,” in which legitimation games are both masked and enacted by bare power; as a project which orders complexity into clear and coterminous religious, ethno-linguistic, geographic, and political lines; and as an event where historical nostalgias and social myths are peddled on the cheap. At the same time, these essays capture the everyday refusal of the flattening of memory and social perspective. Can such refusal be sustained in a war of long duration or intensified atrocity? We suspect not. We hope it will not be tested to its limits.

Posts in This Series

Introduction: Ukraine and Russia: The Agency of War

The Maidan as Multitude

The Tug of War: Notes From the Battlefield of Reflexivity

How History Goes Wrong: Historical Politics and its Outcomes

Brother Nation or Brothers No More? Seeing Asymmetry in Post-Maidan Ukraine

Religion as Politics by Other Means

The Ambivalent Future of Ukraine

Ukraine, the Exception, and the Political: Ethnographic Investigations and Theorization


Bare Power

Revolutions and their Translators: Maidan, the Conflict in Ukraine, and the Russian New Left