CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Temerty Contemporary Ukraine Program (TCUP) at Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute announced its second annual conference, “Beyond Borderland: 30 Years of Ukrainian Sovereignty.” The conference will be held virtually on February 7-11.
In 2021, Ukraine celebrated its 30th year of independence, and the TCUP conference will celebrate that achievement. As sovereignty is not a given, the conference will ask panelists to dig into the meaning of sovereignty for the modern world, including, but not limited to, Ukraine.
The current geopolitical order is based on national territorial sovereignty, but Ukraine’s sovereignty has been violated and threatened by Russian President Vladimir Putin since 2014. What does it mean for Ukraine to be a sovereign, independent nation in this context? How can scholars use these threats from the Russian Federation as a way to deepen their understanding of why sovereignty is so significant in Ukraine?
The conference theme will let participants explore both the international and domestic challenges to Ukraine’s sovereignty, and it also places Ukraine in a broader conversation about the meaning of sovereignty in the 21st century. This year’s conference also draws on last year’s discussion of Ukrainian democracy because protecting Ukraine’s sovereignty is essential to protecting its democracy.
The panels in the conference will begin with a big picture discussion of sovereignty. The first panel will explore the meaning of sovereignty in the context of Russian aggression, though it looks at Ukraine as one of many countries dealing with such threats. The participants in this panel have experience working in other countries that have seen Russian interference, for example in Georgia and Kosovo.
The second panel on digital transformations will consider how the internet and technology have impacted the idea of sovereignty. The experts on this panel have experience both researching this topic and working within the technology and media sectors. This format will allow participants to think about how Ukraine is playing a key role in rethinking the meaning of sovereignty in the modern world. It will also give participants an opportunity to consider whether there are multiple sites where the meaning of sovereignty is being remade.
Experts in the second panel will consider Ukrainian sovereignty not just with regard to Ukraine’s eastern border, but they will also consider the concept of sovereignty from the perspective of the following themes: they will consider the different uses of technology, both domestically and internationally; they will explore the way media tell certain stories or target certain groups of people; and they will discuss Ukraine’s domestic policies toward the currently occupied regions.
For scholars, the concept of sovereignty is challenging and mutable. While it is a definitive way of seeing the world, a comprehensive conceptualization of the topic must incorporate all of the themes described above.
The conference will also feature a mix of academic and policy experts, as well as a mix of people who are from Ukraine, based in Ukraine, and others who are located in institutions in the United States and Europe. Many of the scheduled speakers have both academic and policy experience. Participating scholars come from diverse backgrounds, including anthropology, sociology, political science and media studies.
The policy experts scheduled to take part in the conference have a combination of government experience, and they include two former U.S. ambassadors to Ukraine, as well as former members of the Ukrainian government. They also have experience working in non-governmental and international organizations.
Taking all of these perspectives into consideration helps foster a discussion among people whose voices often seem to be at an impasse. Instead of seeing policy and academic representatives as talking past one another, the conference will create a space for dialogue. Conference organizers believe it is important to tackle these conversations from all angles.
The fourth and final panel will explore policy priorities, and it will attempt to bring all of these angles together to discuss both domestic concerns and Ukraine’s international relations – not just with Russia and the U.S., but with the world.
The conference schedule is available at https://huri.harvard.edu/tcup-conference, where readers can also learn more about conference speakers. The conference is open to the public, but registration is required. To register, readers can visit https://harvard.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_n0_nN8a8TZObIJvibuv4YQ.
Readers can learn more about the Temerty Contemporary Ukraine Program, the program’s publications, and research being done by TCUP at the program’s website, https://huri.harvard.edu/temerty-contemporary-ukraine-program.
Dr. Emily Channell-Justice is the director of the Temerty Contemporary Ukraine Program at Harvard University’s Ukrainian Research Institute.