University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Slavonic Studies Graduate Research Forum > “HOW I BECAME BELARUSIAN”: Nationalism and Conversion at the Time of Late Authoritarianism

“HOW I BECAME BELARUSIAN”: Nationalism and Conversion at the Time of Late Authoritarianism

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Nationalism works not only as a system of social organization, but also as a technology for the organization of the self, and the concept of conversion, taken from studies of religion, can be useful in making sense of national/ist personal transformations. The presentation focuses on narratives documenting the “rites of passage” into what the narrators believe to be “authentic Belarusianness.” These can be seen as stories of self-understanding, of purposefully creating a meaningful self, with the key claims being sincerity and acting in response to conscience. As this conversion happens inside, the external “proof” of the transformation is the switch to Belarusian as the language of daily communication. This code-switching implies a drastic change in internal signifying practices, which requires (at least initially) permanent self-control and discipline and thus becomes the source of one’s authority over oneself. Sincerity and “true Belarusianness” serve as ways to articulate social criticism and make political claims, with identity becoming a site and an instrument of political struggle.

This talk is part of the Slavonic Studies Graduate Research Forum series.

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