Emptiness

How to study it?

This project uses emptiness – a concrete historical formation (see What is it) – as a tool for relational comparison that leads to generalization. This does not mean treating emptiness as an abstract concept, but rather moving emptiness in all its empirical richness horizontally, from the Latvian-Russian borderlands to Belarus, Ukraine, and the Russian Far East. These sites are historically and geopolitically different, yet they all experienced capitalism after socialism, and in all of them, people are living amidst empty buildings, disintegrating social relations, and uncertain futures. The ways in which people respond – in terms of everyday practices, governance, and meaning-making – diverge: if in Latvia urban elites consider emptying to be a matter of perception, in Russia experts argue over whether to address it through managed shrinking or frontier resettlement. Fieldwork might yield insights about different emic interpretive frameworks, and we welcome them. The project is designed to refine analytical frameworks through relational comparison in order to lead to insights about the changing landscape of power in and beyond concrete locations (see Locations for more).

Collaborate with us

If you would like to find out more about the project or contribute a blog on a resonant aspect of your own research to the Field Reports section of our website, please get in touch by writing to emptiness@anthro.ox.ac.uk.