Living Together or Next to Each Others? Everyday Ethnicity in the Town of Chernivtsi in Western Ukraine

  • Abstract:

    Identity and to some extent ethnicity are one of the most popular concepts in social sciences. Their understanding depends on particular discipline, approach and background used by scholars. Recently, the concept of identity has been a subject of critique as being overused and too general (Brubaker 2004). Although, the concept of ethnicity can be perceived as not so popular as identity still there are many approaches one can understand it according to primordialist, constructionist and cognitive view. The aim of my paper is to discuss the problem of so-called ethnic identity or rather ethnic self-ascription and categorization by using the example of the patterns of everyday ethnicity in the multiethnic town of Chernivtsi in Western Ukraine. In this city for more than one year and a half I have been carrying out my ethnographic fieldwork on the problem of ethnicity (and to coexistence here of four main national groups: Ukrainians, Romanians, Poles and Jews) and local politics of memory connected with the urban transition observed in the city. In my presentation, I want to show why and when ethnicity matters for ordinary citizens of Chernivtsi and how it is connected with the existence of the so-called ‘cosmopolitan myth’ connected with the long, diverse and multicultural history of Bukovyna region and its belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the conclusion, I want to point out whether the citizens of Chernivtsi form one tolerant community – ‘they live together’ or maybe ‘next to each others’. I base my presentation on materials gathered during fieldwork (2009- present) and theoretical framework of the cognitive approach to study ethnicity and identity, proposed by such a scholars as Rogers Brubaker.