Journal Article

Emptiness: Capitalism without people in the Latvian countryside

Published 16 October 2020 / By Dace Dzenovska

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In Latvian towns and villages, post‐Soviet capitalism has produced a palpable change that locals describe as “emptiness.” People point to empty houses and apartments, and they list friends and relatives who have left. They fear school closures and the cancellation of transportation routes. They imagine the future as an entirely different world, one in which they will play no part. As a social formation, emptiness consists of (1) an observable reality wherein places rapidly lose their constitutive elements (people, infrastructure, services, social networks, and the future); (2) a way of life that emerges in response to such changes, which seem irreversible; and (3) an emic interpretive framework for making sense of the new reality. Emptiness in Latvia is symptomatic of post–Cold War spatiotemporal arrangements of power wherein capital and the state increasingly abandon people and places.

Keywords: emptiness, capitalism, the future, postsocialism, Latvia, eastern Europe


Dzenovska, D. (2020) Emptiness: Capitalism without people in the Latvian countryside, American Ethnologist, Wiley