Student presentation: Ellie Knott

Generating data: studying identity politics through political ethnography in Ukraine and Moldova

Date: 24 January 2014 (week 2)


This paper will discuss the use of interviews and ethnographic methods for political science research in Eastern Europe. It will argue that such methods are vital for understanding the meaning of taken-for-granted political concepts and data, such as census data, by using a bottom-up approach which engages with people from the region and tries to understand from their perspective what concepts such as national identity and citizenship mean in everyday life.

This paper will first introduce the methods of ethnographic interviews by discussing how they can be applied and their value within political science. The paper will then use data gathered from interviews in Moldova and Ukraine to demonstrate the value of such an approach. The paper will show how interview data can add significantly to understanding of political concepts in these cases by adding a richness of context and a bottom-up perspective that quantitative and elite-level interviews do not engage with. Lastly the paper will draw on experiences gained from field research to discuss the problems of ethnographic research within political science and the post-Soviet region, and examine how these can be overcome, to contribute to a more rigorous political ethnographic approach in the post-Soviet space.

Overall this paper will argue that this approach fills in the gaps of understanding within the region and political science about what institutions and identities mean for those that use and identify them. It will argue that this kind of research is vital for bridging the gaps between the disciplines of anthropology and political science, by examining the bottom-up perspective of politics in the region.    

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