The Great Departure: Staying and Leaving as Tactics of Life After Post-Socialism

2010 – 2012
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During the last decade, Latvian migration to Western Europe, also known as “the Great Departure,” has become a mass social phenomenon. It is estimated that about 10% of Latvia’s residents are on the move. The Great Departure, however, is not only about leaving. Its contours are equally tangible for those who have stayed behind. People across Latvia’s cities, towns and villages report that there are less children in schools, that the streets of many of Latvia’s cities are notably emptier than they used to be, that it is difficult to find someone to fix your roof, and that social life has broken down, because everyone has left.

This project analyses the Great Departure as a complex interplay of leaving and staying as tactics of life that emerge in an historical moment shaped by neoliberalism, nationalism, European integration and, most recently, fiscal austerity. It brings ethnographic engagement with staying and leaving to bear upon analysis of contemporary forms of capitalism and state power in Europe. The research asks what are the forms of power in relation to which staying and leaving emerge as historically specific tactics of life? It analyses these forms of power as effects of postsocialist transformations that are discernible in the ways in which people make sense of and act upon life in the present with twenty-five years of postsocialist democratization, liberalization and privatization behind them.

Principal Investigator

Dace Dzenovska


European Social Fund