Olga Sasunkevich

De-essentializing Ethnicity: ‘Karta Polaka’ and the Process of Ethnicization in the Belarus-Poland Border Region

The project represents the study of the Polish minority in the Belarusian city of Hrodna located on the Belarus-Poland border. It focuses on Belarusian citizens with Karta Polaka (a Polish Card), the document which Poland issues to people who identify themselves with the Polish nation. Concentrating on the application process, the author considers how Hrodna dwellers understand their Polishness and how they produce it during the interview with a Polish consul or the communication with a researcher. To theorize her findings, the author works with the ideas of Rogers Brubaker who argues in favour of studying how ethnicity is produced in daily life interactions and to which extent this process complements/contradicts “the enthnicization from above” as “the ways in which [ethnic] categories are proposed, propagated, organizationally entrenched, and generally embedded” (Brubaker 2004, p. 13). Thus, the project problematizes the process of ethnicization and identity construction in Eastern and Central Europe and suggests the more sophisticated theoretical approach to the studies of ethnicities in the region.

Olga Sasunkevich is a lecturer at the European Humanities University (Vilnius, Lithuania). She holds a PhD in Contemporary History of Eastern Europe (Greifswald University, Germany) and a Master degree in Sociology (with specialization in Gender Studies) (European Humanities University). She was a PhD student in the framework of the International Research Training Group Baltic Borderlands at Greifswald University from 2010–2012, a guest PhD researcher at Lund University, Sweden (Swedish Institute’s Visby scholarship) in 2013, and a Fulbright Visiting Researcher at the School for Social Transformations at Arizona State University in 2014. She is the winner of Graduate Essay Prize 2014 from the Association for Women in Slavic Studies. Her book Informal Trade, Gender and the Border Experience: From Political Borders to Social Boundaries will be published in December 2015 by Ashgate. Her research interests include gender studies, border studies, East European history and social transformations after socialism.

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