Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Katherine Verdery

Committee Members

Gerald Creed

Dana-Ain Davis

Sarah Phillips

Subject Categories

Social and Cultural Anthropology


political activism; youth; gender; education; decommunization; postsocialism


This dissertation examines the intersection of processes of Europeanization and decommunization in Ukraine during a time of war and upheaval. Through the lens of leftist and feminist activists, it explores how political action was renegotiated during and after the mass mobilizations of 2013-2014, known as Euromaidan or Maidan. I use the concept of “self-organization” to consider ways these activists have engaged with a dominant national ideology, which draws from specific political ideas about Europe and communism. I trace how self-organization has roots within socialist-era political forms, how it was enacted during the Maidan mobilizations, and its path since the end of the protests and the onset of war in Ukraine’s eastern regions. In the dissertation, I consider the relationship between self-organization and neoliberalism, as this latter force has permeated activist discourses.

I use three specific ethnographic examples from participant observation with leftist and feminist activists to make these arguments. During the Maidan period and after, I consider the ways leftist activists organized volunteer-based initiatives in order to engage during the protests without using violence and without supporting right-wing national ideologies. Second, I use the example of education-based activism to understand how the leftist student population made criticisms of state institutions that they integrated into the broader anti-state protests of Maidan. Finally, I examine how feminist activists’ views of Europe widely diverged from those of the majority of protesters on Maidan, and I follow how these feminists—like leftists—reconfigured their own participation through self-organization.

Together, these elements provide both an ethnographic analysis of this significant moment of disorder and a lens onto a more complex understanding of the relationship between the state and political action. More specifically, examining how marginalized groups participated in this form of collective political action has led me to determine that these protests have reformulated people’s expectations of their governing regimes and their notions of what political participation can and should achieve. I conclude, ultimately, that this reformulation has great bearing on the future of Ukraine’s relationship with its more dominant neighbors—namely, Russia and the European Union.