“We need humanities to deal with processes, which are not instantly visible, but call for the in-depth analyses to understand them” – 5in10 with Alina Mozolevska
Alina Mozolevska is a professor in the Faculty of Philology at Petro Mohyla Black Sea National University (Mykolaiv, Ukraine). In 2015, she received a PhD in Linguistics with a major in romance languages from Taras Shevchenko National University (Kyiv, Ukraine). Her research interests include media studies, discourse analysis, and border studies, and she has published on borders and identity in literary and political discourses. Her most recent article, “Construction of Borders and Walls in Contemporary Ukrainian Literature (Analysis of Oleksandr Irvanets’ and Taras Antypovych Novels)”, was published in 2021 in Altre Modernita. Alina Mozolevska was a visiting professor at the UniGR-Center for Border Studies at Saarland University (Germany). Located in Saarbrucken, Germany, she is a 2022/2023 non-resident Prisma Ukraïna Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien.
How would you explain your research to someone who’s not an expert?
I guess it is quite easy to explain my research to the average person on the street: I analyze how social media users talk about today’s war against Ukraine by means of various images – maps, photos, drawings, memes, cartoons, etc. Visuals are the core element of information warfare because, apart from conveying certain information, they absorb the expressions of ideas, symbols, and narratives. The comparative aspect of my research is equally important, as I am resorting both to the content in Ukrainian and Russian social media.
What intrigued you when you started your academic journey? What were formative encounters or challenges?
I have been lucky to meet and work with intriguing and extremely talented personalities. For many years I have been working at the university, where I graduated, Petro Mohyla Black Sea National University. Over the years, my mentors have become my colleagues, very close colleagues, and I am delighted to discuss pretty much everything with them: from everyday life to the specific scientific topics. This environment spurred my interest in scientific activities. Another important element of my development was taking part in the seminars and academic events organized in partnership with the Center for Border Studies at Saarland University and in the research visits to European educational institutions we have been collaborating with through the Erasmus program. In the end, these factors seem to have unveiled how international academic institutions work and inspired me for further achievements
How, if at all, has the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine influenced your research questions or approaches?
Just like for most Ukrainians, I must admit that both my life and the research interests have changed dramatically since the full-scale invasion. Ever since the beginning of the Russian aggression in 2014, I have been working my colleagues on the research about borders and identity. We considered these issues to be the key to understanding to what is happening in the country. As an example, just before the invasion we finalized the international student project Borderland Stories, dedicated to expanding our understanding of borders in Europe and Ukraine. After the 24.02.2022, I developed one more academic interest: what is the visual discourse of the war as a way of expressing identity, memory, and reflecting on the transformation of physical borders.
What do you consider to be the role of the humanities and social sciences in times of upheaval, fragmented publics, and authoritarian transgressions?
It seems that modern societies often neglect the humanities and social sciences, considering them less important than mathematics, physics, etc., where one can achieve the immediate and precise result. In my opinion, the humanities deal with processes and phenomena, which are not instantly physically visible. However, the upheavals mentioned in the question lead to significant shifts in society, calling for the in-depth analyses to understand them before either stopping or facilitating development of some of them. This, in my opinion, is the role played by the social sciences and humanities.
How do you think war affects memory or identity? And how does this connect to your research?
War is a traumatic experience for everyone involved. Any war provokes to re-determine the understanding of oneself and another both in the synchronic and diachronic realities. Yesterday’s enemies become allies, and the other way around, “good” neighbors become bitter enemies. The Russian war is not an exception; it catalyzes numerous changes in the nation’s self-identification. One can trace how it changed the Ukrainians´ self-awareness against the backdrop of a full-scale invasion; how it sharpened the sense of historical justice, and galvanized their sense of belonging to larger European history. In this sense, the Russian war is not only an act of aggression against a sovereign state, it is also a war of memory, a war between the past and the present. Therefore, Russia denies the existence of Ukraine as an independent state, its history, the very existence of Ukrainians as a distinctive nation, and attempts to erase the collective consciousness. As a researcher, I am mostly interested in this information warfare and how it is unfolding itself.
Citation: “We need humanities to deal with processes, which are not instantly visible, but call for the in-depth analyses to understand them” – 5in10 with Alina Mozolevska, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 13.06.2023, https://trafo.hypotheses.org/47599