Power of Symbols and Images of Resistance in the Russo-Ukrainian War

  • Datum: –17.00
  • Plats: IRES Library, Gamla torget 3, vån 3
  • Föreläsare: Yuliya Yurchuk and Kateryna Boyko
  • Arrangör: Uppsala Forum
  • Kontaktperson: Galyna Kutsovska
  • Seminarium

The speakers will discuss two specific thematic patterns of visual imaginaries in Ukraine that were created in response to the war: images representing womanhood and images that use religious symbols and religious themes.

"Postsecular markers of victory and resistance in Ukraine: religious imaginary in the context of war" with Dr. Yuliya Yurchuk.

The presentation is focused on the religious imaginary and symbols used in the context of Russian war against Ukraine. The main argument is that secular actors use well recognizable images to convey messages of hope and resistance to broader audiences that cross cultures, nations, and languages. At the same time, these images cross the temporal dimension of the war and blur boundaries of the temporal axis positioning the war as the eternal struggle between the good and the evil. On the one hand, these imaginary mixes secular and religious symbols in the assemblages that reveal traces of Ukrainian past and present. On the other hand, these traces become universally recognizable thanks to religious symbolism. What does this imaginary reveal us about people’s perceptions of the war? Which messages are in-coded in these images? Theoretically, this analysis approaches the imaginaries as examples of the “postsecular sacred” which is produced by the specific condition of postmodernity that erases boundaries between secular and religious, and between sacred and the profane. Methodologically the paper is based on the semiotic analysis of the images circulated mainly through social media.

Speaker bio
Yuliya Yurchuk is a Senior Lecturer of History of Ideas at Södertörn University, Sweden. She specializes in memory studies, history of religion, and the study of nationalism in East European countries. She is the author of the book Reordering of Meaningful Worlds: Memory of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in Post-Soviet Ukraine (Acta 2014). Her articles have appeared in Memory Studies, Nationalities Papers, Europe-Asia Studies, Nordisk Østforum, Baltic Worlds, Ukraina Moderna. Her recent work focused on memory and religion. She is one of the editors of “Memory and Religion from a Postsecular Perspective” (Routledge, 2022, co-edited with Zuzanna Bogumil). She also translates Swedish literature into Ukrainian and is an author of the book “Sweden: a model kit” (Vihola, 2022, in Ukrainian). Currently she is working on the project in the field of the transnational intellectual history titled From Sweden with Love: Circulation and interpretation of Ellen Key’s ideas about love, motherhood, and upbringing in the late Russian Empire and the early Soviet Union (1890-1930s)funded by the Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies.

"Valkyries and Madonnas: Constructing the Ukrainian Womanhood during the Russo-Ukrainian War" with Kateryna Boyko

“We are the Kyiv Valkyries and we will send you all to hell”. This is how armed young women in camouflage from a female territorial defence unit video-addressed the Russian military in late February 2022. The rapid intensification of the Russo-Ukrainian War, ongoing since 2014, to a full-scale invasion, not only posed multiple new challenges for Ukrainian women but also became a moment of crisis that has led to rearticulation of the current femininity models.

The paper focuses on the visual representation of women’s war experience in Ukraine and the implications it had for Ukrainian women’s identity. In particular, it aims to discuss how femininity is constructed through images disseminated via social media during the wartime and what cultural references have been applied, contested, and rearticulated there.

Semiotic analysis of the visuals shows that Ukrainian women are usually portrayed as a triad – three characters with different functions. First of all, the aggressive, militarist, and simultaneously eroticised Valkyrie; then Madonna – a protective figure; third is the Witch – a chthonic entity with supernatural powers able to rule the fate. All the three roles merge in metaphoric visual depictions of Ukraine itself making women a symbol of Ukrainian resistance. The images tend to redefine traditional female roles and emphasize women’s agency and empowerment in the times of crisis.

Speaker bio
Kateryna Boyko is a PhD student in media and communication studies, whose research interests are identity construction, online communities, the intersection of entertaining content and politics.  Currently, she works at Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES) at Uppsala University. Her doctoral research explores civic cultures of torrent communities in Ukraine. In particular, she focuses on conjunctions and interplays between civic and P2P file-sharing practices, in how and under what conditions file-sharing becomes embedded in the civic context. Kateryna also holds a Master degree in Journalism from Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University while her second MA degree in Media Studies was obtained at Södertörn University (Stockholm).