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Growing out of a postsocialist world : teenagers reconstructing identities in Western Ukraine


Postsocialist Eastern Europe is one region where economic restructurings coincide with state-building processes, both of which lead to a reordering of national values and a redefining of national identity. The former USSR continues to be a reference point for adults in western Ukraine as they make sense of ongoing uncertainties. The generation born after socialism and Ukraine's independence in 1991, however, has learned what life was like before it was transformed only through the accounts of others. As a result, the way these young people relate to the cultural, political, and economic elements associated with socialism and postsocialism are not the same as what the older generation expects of them. Drawing upon ethnographic and linguistic data collected over sixteen months at two public schools in western Ukraine, this research examines how space and time work in concert to allow young people in contemporary Ukraine to make sense of the world they live in. Specifically, I apply Bakhtin's notion of the chronotope, a space-time association that underlies people's experiences and conceptions of personhood, to contend that teenagers draw upon multiple linkages between space and time in order to position themselves among their peers, within their local communities, and towards the wider global community. My analysis suggests that teenagers position themselves in relation to different social identities by constructing multiple chronotopes of tradition and modernity. Specifically, I examine how these space-time associations underlie teenagers' attitudes towards out-migration, language use and linguistic variability. These chronotopes play an important role in how Ukrainian teenagers perceive the differences between the older and younger generations, between rural and urban residents, and between Ukrainians and the rest of the world. In addition, socioeconomic class and differing ideologies of language influence how space and time are valued within these dichotomous relationships. An investigation such as this suggests that everyday encounters with change are only one way in which social transformation is experienced. People also draw upon space and time in order to contextualize change and understand its effect on their lives, an integral facet of experience that extends beyond any particular historical event or rupture

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