‘How can you really look at how what is dear to you is being oppressed?’ Manoeuvring resistance while under occupation

Authors: Natalia Volvach (Stockholm University, Sweden)
Speakers: Natalia Volvach
Topic: Critical Linguistic Anthropology
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL COMELA 2020 General Session

Occupation is never voluntary. Under occupation people have to adapt to new realities and fit their lives into frames of existence imposed upon them. In the case of the current Crimean occupation, Crimeans are being compelled to reorganize their everyday practices to fit Russian realities. However the experience of oppression and of the abuses made upon what is dear to them and their community is not hidden from view. Rather, this experience is here shown to be provoking and inciting certain forms of resistance. This paper aims to contribute to the field of linguistic anthropology and its interest in semiotics of protest by interrogating how spaces of protest are nurtured through turbulent acts of resignification (Kitis & Milani, 2015) and are repurposed to express dissent in Crimea. Refusals to live scripted lives are shown in acts of opposition, yet remain disguised from the public eye. In this paper, then, I outline the experiences and struggles of people in occupied territory by looking at what is hidden (Scott, 1990) while sharing the bits and pieces from interviews collected in Crimea five years after the occupation. Since to live what one considers important may cause hardships, individuals entering into the realm of politics are forced to manoeuvre an unknown and turbulent terrain (Stroud, 2015). Instead of openly declaring dissatisfaction, resistance is shielded with deliberate ambiguity. The study’s participants recapitulate their everyday experiences of occupation and bring to life examples of manoeuvring in order to prevent something from taking place (e.g. the removal of a Ukrainian flag), as well as instances of manoeuvring needed for something to take place (e.g. events of commemoration). Their narratives reveal the geographies of resistance entangling with the national, political, and ethnic lines of belonging. While listening to their experiences rich with accounts of constraint, suppression, but also charismatic acts, we can learn about the subtleties of this restrictive regime, but also about the hidden acts of resistance in the Crimean region scarcely investigated in the field of sociolinguistics.

Keywords: disguised resistance, manoeuvring, performance, semiosis, belonging