Nation-Building in the Borderlands of a Borderland: A Cartographical Examination of the Russia-Ukraine War
Dr Marnie Howlett presents an engaging and thought-provoking look at the cartographical causes and consequences of the war. She looks at Ukraine's position between East and West and the implications of its long history of shifting borders with Russia. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, much attention within political and military circles has been devoted to examining the origins of the seemingly unexpected war. However, these analyses have primarily explored the foreign policy objectives of Russia and the motivations of its president. This talk will instead consider the cartographical causes and consequences of the conflict. In drawing on cartographical material gathered through ethnographic fieldwork in three Ukrainian regions between 2018-2022, this talk will show how the war is connected to Ukraine’s position between the East and West. In particular, the ways its borderland status has been utilised throughout history by both neighbouring Russia and the European Union will be considered, especially how it has complicated processes of state- and nation-building since the state’s independence in 1991. Finally, the talk will argue for the importance of realising the nuances at the grassroots in Ukraine for understanding both the Russia-Ukraine war and the future direction of the country. Dr Marnie Howlett is a Departmental Lecturer in Politics (Qualitative Methods) in the Department of Politics and International Relations (DPIR) at the University of Oxford. She holds a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), as well as a BA (High Honours) in International Studies and MA in Political Science from the University of Saskatchewan. Dr Howlett’s research centres on the intersection of cartography, nationalism, and geopolitics within the former Soviet Union, particularly Ukraine. Her interests also include research ethics, and the use of visual and spatial methods for political science research. Dr Howlett currently teaches on the postgraduate Qualitative Methods in Political Science, Research Design in Comparative Political Science, and Comparative Political Science courses in the DPIR. She is also working on a book monograph, Imagined Borderlands, which explores the intersection and overlap of imagined and territorial cartographies to better explain contemporary nationalism and politics in Ukraine. Her research has appeared in The Conversation and on media channels in Canada, the UK, Europe, and Asia. Prior to pursuing her PhD, Dr Howlett served as a legislative intern and policy analyst with the Saskatchewan Legislature in Regina, Canada. She has volunteered extensively in Canada and Ukraine with the non-governmental organisation, Help Us Help The Children, which works with Ukrainian orphans and families of war. Dr Howlett also served as an international electoral observer on three missions with CANADEM during Ukraine’s presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019.