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Emptiness and its futures

Staying and leaving as tactics of life in Latvia

Dace Dzenovska

In the past 25 years, rural Latvia has become notably emptier. This emptying is the result of post-Soviet deindustrialization and large-scale outmigration, enabled by EU accession and exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis. It is accompanied by lack of political protest, leading many to conclude that migration hinders political mobilization. Such conclusions derive from viewing leaving and staying as actions in relation to the state. Instead, leaving and staying should be viewed in relation to transnational forms of power. The people leaving the deindustrialized Latvian countryside to work in the English countryside are seeking futures past, namely, futures of stable employment and incremental prosperity. Those who stay in the emptying Latvian countryside create the future as a little bit more of the present.

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Introduction

Desire for the political in the aftermath of the Cold War

Dace Dzenovska and Nicholas De Genova

In this introduction, we reflect on the proliferation of an amorphous desire for the political in the post–Cold War era. The desire for the political, we argue, is shaped by two sets of tensions: the desire to criticize power via forms of action conventionally characterized as “politics,” but without a clear analysis of how power is organized or exercised; and the desire to overcome the present in the name of an alternative (better) future, but without a clear sense of the form that future might take. We start from the vantage points of critical scholarship that distinguishes itself from the mainstream, and people and places that are geopolitically in Europe, but “not quite” European if viewed in relation to “Europe” as a normative trope.