Ursula Woolley: The Practice and Policy of Public History in Ukraine: Wartime Securitisation of Identity or Decolonisation?

The project investigates civic and state responses in Ukraine to state disputes between Ukraine and Russia over public interpretations of history.  It examines how securitised historical discourses are informed by actors’ subjective historical understanding and how these discourses are deployed in practice, in cultural policy, activism and politics.  Theorisations of public history, of transnational history and histoires croisées, of the securitisation of identity and of postcolonialism provide the methodological framework. The research investigates elite public discourse about history in Ukraine, and how, and with what consequences, intersubjectivity, between state and non-state actors, and elite and non-elite actors, translates this discourse into state policy and civic action. It investigates national policy discourse on public history, national critical discourse on public history and national public history content. It investigates how this discourse acts on, and is acted on by, city-level cultural politics in regional cities where local cultural, academic and political actors publicly and legibly articulate local historical identities. It hypothesises that the practice of public history is a finely nuanced way of understanding how we narrate ourselves.

Ursula Woolley is a first-year MPhil/PhD candidate at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES), University College London (UCL) where her supervisor is Professor Andrew Wilson.  She received her MRes in East European Studies from UCL SSEES in 2018 and wrote her MRes thesis on the implementation of the 2015 Decommunisation legislation in Ukraine as a response to Russian securitisation of identity.  She received her BA in Modern and Medieval Languages from Clare College, Cambridge in 1990. Between 1990 and 2006 she worked for the British Council, including in Kyiv (1991-95) and Moscow (1996-2000). From 2006 to 2012 she held various political leadership roles on Islington Borough Council (London).  Between 2012and 2016 she was Executive Director of Pushkin House in London.  Since 2017 she has been a Trustee of the (independent) Ukrainian Institute in London (affiliated with the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv). Her general research interests are the history and politics of Ukraine; the instrumentalisation of historical narratives in politics; interdiscursivity between elites and non-elites in identity construction; and memory, security and public history in post-communism and post-colonialism.


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