School of Arts and Sciences ILIA STATE UNIVERSITY


Armenian 'Nothingness' - Placeness, Care, and Repair After the Disappearance of the Welfare State - Online Talk by PhD Student Maria Gunko


On November 10, at 5:00 p.m., a series of anthropology research seminars with the doctoral program will host Maria Gunko, a PhD student at the University of Oxford, presenting her research titled “Armenian “Nothingness”: Placeness, Care, and Repair After the Disappearance of the Welfare State”.

About the Research

Devalued by capital and abandoned by the developmental state, small towns across countries that used to constitute the Soviet Union are increasingly hollowing out – losing people,

infrastructures, and welfare (Dzenovska, 2020). When Maria Gunko began fieldwork in Armenia in 2022, people in casual conversation would say about small towns that “there is nothing here” (steghvochinch chka [ստեղ ոչինչ չկա]). This is similar to other emic descriptors of “emptiness” found throughout the post-Soviet realm and beyond (ibid). Yet the “nothing here” does not mean an absence of things, but rather a reconfiguration of relations between people, space, state, and capital after the collapse of state socialism. The seeming “nothing” is actually something, produced by the combination of “shock therapy”, liberalization, hectic privatization, and tensions of reterritorialization. Armenian “nothingness” is also largely the result of the ongoing territorial conflict with Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), which has become constitutive for shaping the contemporary Armenian state, its policies, as well as everyday life (Papazian, 2008).

About the Speaker

Maria Gunko is a DPhil Candidate in Migration Studies, Hill Foundation Scholar at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography University of Oxford. Her DPhil research is a part of the ERC-funded project ‘Emptiness: living capitalism and democracy after post-socialism’.

Maria holds an MSc and Kandidat Nauk (Russian post-graduate degree) in Human Geography. Her work experience includes the Institute of Geography RAS (Moscow), the Center for the Economy of the North and Arctic (Moscow), Higher School of Economics (Moscow). She was a Visiting Fellow at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography (Leipzig) and at the Institute of Geography Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris). Since 2023, she has joined Yerevan State University as a Visiting Professor. Maria’s research interests lie in the intersection of urban studies and social anthropology, including ethnography of the state, infrastructures, and urban decay with a geographical focus on Eastern Europe and the Southern Caucasus. She is the co-editor of one monograph, author of over forty scientific articles and op-eds in English, Russian, and Armenian.

The talk will be conducted in English via Zoom:

Working Language: English

Date and Time: November 10, 5:00 p.m.

Attendance is free.



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