Making Borderland Identity: the case of European Football Championship 2012 in Lviv

Making Borderland Identity: the case of European Football Championship 2012 in Lviv

facebook icon twitter icon email icon telegram icon link icon whatsapp icon

Alexandra Yatsyk

Institute of Mass Communications and Social Sciences, Kazan Federal University

June 23, 2014

Center for Urban History, Lviv

The presentation addresses the politics of identities making in Eastern Europe as exemplified by the different practices of bordering and de-bordering, as well as inclusion and exclusion, through the preparation for and hosting of sporting mega-events. In intention to conceptualize the performative dimensions of these events and relate them to the practices of identity-making and nation branding, Alexandra Yatsyk focuses on the case 2012 UEFA football championship in Lviv.

Politics of identity-making comprises different practices of production, translation and transmission of cultural meanings based on a particular logic. The logic of spectacle, as embedded in the practices of nation branding, or political performances, is a way of reifying the symbols of national distinctiveness as an indispensable element of identity-building. Large-scale events, like festivals, performances, and tournaments, contribute to discourses of national identity, or "narratives of a nation", that is "a set of stories, images, landscapes, scenarios, historical events, national symbols and rituals". Yet by the same token, the cultural narratives and performances can be politically subversive, and transform or disturb the existing structures of power relations.

From a political perspective, the Euro-2012 was initially designed as a de-bordering project aimed at demonstrating the opportunities for co-hosting a mega-event by an EU member state (Poland) and its neighbour eager to move closer to the European normative order (Ukraine). However, in early 2012 the sharpening of the normative / value-driven issues in EU - Ukraine relations (in particular, the debate on the Yulia Timoshenko's affair) was ultimately conducive to the campaign aimed at politically boycotting Ukraine by a number of European governments. Within the augmenting normative discourse in the European media and political circles, Ukraine was largely portrayed as a country drifting away from European standards and governed by a corruptive and undemocratic regime. This fortified the symbolic and political contrast between Ukraine and Poland with its well established European credentials. The Euro-2012 has added a new dimension to the imagery of Ukraine as a country eager to convey strong cultural messages to Europe yet severely constrained both politically and economically in its European drive.

In this context, the city of Lviv is an illuminating example of a border-located urban /regional identity that embodies an authentic territorial spirit grounded in a strong European cultural legacy, and simultaneously proclaims its "Ukrainian-ness". This both external and inner borderland positioning were the basic point of place-making strategy of Lviv’s Euro-2012 PR-campaign that promoted it as an "open" space ("Lviv open to the world"), with a modernized "Ukrainian-ness" "approved" by Europe.

Based on in-depth expert interviews with Lviv’s municipals servants, cultural managers, journalists, artists, intellectuals, and entrepreneurs conducted in Autumn 2013 researcher will demonstrate how the Euro 2012 reconfigured identity discourses in Lviv, and how they resonated later in the context of the 2014 revolutionary events.

Alexandra Yatsyk

is Associate Professor of Sociology, Institute of Mass Communications and Social Sciences, Kazan Federal University (Russia). She is a head of the research projects “Development of cultural multi ethnic urban environment under regional “event” policy (the case of the Universiade – 2013 in Kazan)”, “The Сultural Infrastructure of Major Sports Events in Post-Soviet Cities: the 2012 European Football Championships in Lviv”, and “Celebrating Identity through Cultural Events: The Case of Estonia’s “Singing Nationalism” in a Comparative Perspective”, supported by the Russian Humanitarian Scientific Fund, the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe in Lviv, and the University of Turku and Tartu in Finland and Estonia.
Her current research interests are focused on the cultural mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, borderland identities and narratives, cultural and social dimensions of mega-events in a comparative perspective, and post-Soviet cultural production.


Сover Image: