The Shopping Mall as Public Sphere(?) Since Russia’s Full-scale Invasion of Ukraine
11 March 2024, 11:00 am–12:00 pm
A SSEES Research Student seminar with Oliver Banatvala
This event is free.
Masaryk roomUCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies16 Taviton streetLondonWC1H 0BW
Wartime Malleability: The Shopping Mall as Public Sphere(?) Since Russia’s Full-scale Invasion of Ukraine
This presentation explores transformations in urban space since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine through the lens of the shopping mall. I use the shopping mall for two reasons: firstly, the significant growth of malls since the end of the socialist era means that they are an integral part of the contemporary everyday urban experience in the region; secondly, the mall’s inherent flexibility, or ‘malleability’ (Gosseye and Avermaete, 2018), makes it particularly adept at reflecting ongoing geopolitical shifts. The mall can thus provide insight into the everyday urban geopolitics of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
This presentation explores the ways in which the shopping mall has been co-opted as a space for public debate since the full-scale invasion. It will draw on multiple examples in order to reflect the sense of dialogue that the mall perhaps enables. Within Russian malls (taken as a collective) voices in favour of the war apparently coexist with anti-war gestures. The existence of a semblance of dialogue in these spaces could be interpreted as implying that the mall is at the heart of a burgeoning urban public sphere in the urban fabric of Neoliberal Central and East Europe. And yet, there is clearly a power disbalance between the pro-war demonstrations and the anti-war protests: the former are apparently enabled by the structures that exist around the space, whilst the latter are either arrested or forced to voice their opposition in a clandestine fashion. This presentation aims to explore the tensions within this dynamic, whilst also shining light on the nebulous relationship between private and public that is inherent to the shopping mall.
Bio: Oliver Banatvala is a third year PhD student at UCL SSEES, where he also completed an MRes in East European Studies. His research is concerned with the everyday urban geopolitics of Russia’s war on Ukraine, and so his thesis examines the transformation that shopping malls have undergone since the full-scale invasion.
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