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Engaging Multilinguality: Language, Identity and National Cohesion in Ukraine

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Academic discussions about language politics in Ukraine tend to centre on questions of linguistic space rather than linguistic subject – on the multilingualism of Ukrainian territory rather than the ‘multilinguality’ of a Ukrainian citizen. This predominant approach often invites tired exchanges about Ukrainophone-Russophone, west-east regional divisions, which the Maidan Revolution and the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict have urgently called into question.

On 19 October 2018, the project Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies (MEITS), which is funded by a grant from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, is partnering with Cambridge Ukrainian Studies to direct more attention to the position of the multilingual subject in Ukrainian society – past, present and future.

At an international conference in Trinity College, Cambridge, a group of leading scholars across the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences will consider such questions as:
  • How does our understanding of Ukraine change when we frame the evolution of the modern Ukrainian national project as, among other things, a story of individuals becoming multilingual? As a story of scholars documenting the language of the peasantry, of poets learning the dominant language of empire, of national minorities mastering the state language, of politicians acquiring the lingua franca of a globalising economy?
  • How have multilingual subjects been represented in Ukrainian cultural and political discourse since the eighteenth century?
  • To what extent and in what ways, if at all, can such disparate events as the Valuev Circular, the Ukrainian People’s Republic, the early Soviet ‘Executed Renaissance’, and the current war in eastern Ukraine be considered functions of the presence or absence of multilinguality in Ukraine?
  • Is language diversity better understood as a benefit or an obstacle to state- and nation-building in Ukraine?

Featured speakers include Timofey Agarin, Laada Bilaniuk, Olenka Bilash, Vitaly Chernetsky, Taras Koznarsky, Natalia Kudriavtseva, Volodymyr Kulyk, Myroslav Shkandrij and Alina Zubkovych.

This talk is part of the Slavonic Studies series.

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