Journal Article

Emptiness and Its Futures: Staying and leaving as tactics of life in Latvia

Published 1 March 2018 / By Dace Dzenovska

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In the last twenty-five years, rural Latvia has become notably emptier. This emptying is the result of post-socialist deindustrialization, as well as large-scale outmigration, enabled by EU accession and exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis. The emptying is accompanied by lack of political protest, leading many to conclude that migration hinders political mobilization. I argue that such conclusions derive viewing leaving and staying as actions in relation to the state. Instead, leaving and staying should be viewed in relation to transnational forms of power. This analytic leads me to the conclusion that the people leaving the deindustrialized Latvian countryside to work in the industrialized English countryside are seeking futures past, namely futures of stable employment and incremental prosperity associated with both socialist and Fordist models of economy. In turn, those who stay in the emptying Latvian countryside create the future as an extension of present ruination.


Dzenovska, D. (2018) Emptiness and its futures: Staying and leaving as tactics of life in Latvia in Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 80(1), Berghahn, DOI: (pp 16 - 29)

First Published 1 March 2018