Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Law in a Time of Cholera

My fieldwork in comparative law is concentrated in Ukraine, and particularly the Ukrainian parliament.  For Ukrainian parliamentarians as well as its citizens, the last two weeks have been full of unexpected reversals, dramatic events, and plenty of choleric turns.  It has been simply harrowing.  

In future posts, I will address legal aspects of major developments, including the deposing of the elected president and the subsequent invasion of a portion of southern Ukraine.  There are significant tensions between rule of law discourse and political exigency overdue for analysis.  For background,  I start here by giving a brief description of the political culture of post-Soviet Ukraine.  I composed it four years ago (for an edited volume due out summer 2014), well before the recent events:

"A certain mode of reproduction of authoritative discourse came to an end with the break-up of the Soviet Union.  In post-Soviet Ukraine, open-ended discursive modes dominate the present in place of an authoritative discourse. What that means for Ukrainians is that rather than drawing on an established frame of reference to evaluate personal success or failure, experience happiness or sadness, formulate life goals and daily expectations, or retell the history of their country or themselves, they feel they are making it up as they go along."

These are improvisatonal times, and the Ukrainian government is relying on new legislation to get through some of the current crises.  That's a lot to expect.  One research question for me, then, will be how much law can actually accomplish.  What are its limits?  

In the days ahead, affect or emotion will be a significant feature of the context within which legal work will get done.  Fear, distrust, hope, and anger:  Ukraine has become a test case for law in a time of cholera.  


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