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Black Baltics

Irina Novikova

My research project proposal deals with the studies of black people in the countries of the Baltic region (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania). Its focus is the Black Baltics

  • in its commonalities as part of Black diasporic experience, as part of Black Europe today,

  • with its differences, as a consequence of differing national histories.

There is no previous scholarly research on the experiences of black people in the Baltic region, so the focus on interdisciplinary and new theoretical perspectives in my studies is important for the academic discourse in the region as well as for contributing to the history of Black Europeans in its Baltic perspective.

The first module of my research project is a historical perspective - collecting available materials, resources, on history of cultural representations of “blackness” in the three national contexts and history of experiences of black people in the three national contexts as the basis for the studies of black people’s experiences in the contemporary nation-rebuilding contexts.

The second module of the research deals with:
  • contemporary “black geography” of the Baltic region (social, economic, cultural)
  • analysis of black people’s self-understanding/self-articulation and relation to African Diaspora,

  • their relationship to other ethnic minorities in the three different context of ethnic policies.

Project activities of the second module will incorporate a number of in-depth interviews with black residents (students, family members, etc.) in the cities of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania.

This project is related to other projects of mine dealing with the processes of ethnic, minority and gender identifications in Latvia and in the Baltic region in the period of the 1990s, the context of complex transition from being part of the USSR to becoming a member of the EU and NATO.

In my presentation I will specifically focus on the three components of the contemporary situation in Latvia:
  1. representations of “blackness” in public/political discourses (the span of the 1990s) in connection with the discussions of migration/”dangerous others”;

  2. analysis of interviews with respondents (age cohorts 20-25; 40-45; 60-65) of both Latvian-speaking and Russian speaking groups (urban/rural)

  3. analysis of interviews with black residents (Riga)

  4. conclusions.

The issues of interest for my research and presentation are:
  • Postsocialist (post-Soviet) discources of “race”, migration, “otherness” and their space in European unity and its expansion-European creation myths.

  • Racialization of “whiteness” in the postsocialist/EU contexts of state- and nation-rebuilding.

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