Strand 1 Conference: Engaging Multilinguality: Language, Identity and National Cohesion in Ukraine


The strand 1-led international conference ‘Engaging Multilinguality: Language, Identity and National Cohesion in Ukraine’ provided a unique opportunity to address various aspects of multilingualism in Ukraine. Its organisation stemmed from a close collaboration between the MEITS project and Cambridge Ukrainian Studies programme. This conference took place on 19 October at Trinity College, University of Cambridge, and saw three panels that brought together scholars from across different disciplines, researching different historical periods and coming from Europe and North America. After the opening of the conference by Wendy Ayres-Bennett, Rory Finnin and Ivan Kozachenko, the first panel explored relationships between nation, state and language. Timofey Agarin (Queen’s University Belfast) addressed the cases of Baltic States with the focus on language policies and European integration. With a subsequent presentation, Taras Koznarsky (University of Toronto) explored multilingualism, nation and empire in the writings of 19th century Ukrainian poet and folklorist Mykola Markevych. This panel was concluded by the presentation of the study of language use at Ukrainian universities after the Euromaidan revolution. Olenka Bilash (University of Alberta) who coordinated this study, stressed that such projects make comparative analysis between countries like Canada and Ukraine more feasible.

The second panel focused predominantly on language use and changes of linguistic identities in post-Euromaidan Ukraine. Special attention was paid to social media as a new space where various discourses on languages emerge and new linguistic identities asserted. Natalia Kudriavtseva (Kherson National Technical University) conducted a survey of schools in southern region of Ukraine that revealed a wide range of language ideologies towards Ukrainian and Russian. The dynamic nature of social media discourses on languages, language policies and identities was analysed in the next presentation by Volodymyr Kulyk (National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine). Laada Bilaniuk (University of Washington) continued this theme with the presentation on nation-building and the self.

The final panel followed the multidisciplinary format of the conference with Myroslav Shkandrij (University of Manitoba) highlighted a wide range of approaches in understating and portraying of multilinguality by Ukrainian writers of the 20th century. Vitaly Chernetsky (University of Kansas) focused on accommodating and non-accommodating multilingualism in Soviet and post-Soviet cinema. The presentation by Alina Zubkovych (Södertörn University) considered languages and culture of Crimean Tatars and special attention was paid by her to the developments after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. The conference was well-attended with more than fifty people came and actively participated in Q & A sessions over the course of the day. The conference fulfilled its main goal to move away from tired exchanges about Ukrainophone-Russophone, west-east regional divisions and explored multilingualism and agency of a Ukrainian citizen. The papers that were presented at this international conference will be published as a special issue in 2019. 


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