Navigating competing identities through stance-taking: A case of Ukrainian teenagers

Volume 2(1): 2018

ELIZABETH PEACOCK, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse


Scholars of postsocialism have shown how nation and citizenship are shifting along with political and economic borders, and the movement of people across these borders. However, few have examined these transformations through the ways in which individuals take up stances in everyday interactions. Ukraine’s current economic and political difficulties reveal a disconnect between what western Ukrainians feel they deserve and the economic realities that drive them to seek work abroad, which is evident in competing views on migration. This article brings together ethnography and stance theory to examine how teenagers draw upon and engage with a variety of social views to evaluate migration, position themselves and others in relationship to migration, as well as to (dis)align themselves with others in these interactions. The data examined herein come from an informal group discussion held at one public school in a middle-class neighborhood in western Ukraine. The analysis suggests that the stances teenagers take towards Ukrainian migration potentially affect the social identities teenagers construct within their existing peer groups by unintentionally bringing forward socioeconomic class identities that threaten group boundaries based on friendship. In taking up these stances, western Ukrainian teenagers also convey the role migration has in who they are and who they want to be, and reflect the broader views on migration in Ukrainian society.


Les chercheurs s’intéressant au post-socialisme ont montré comment la nation et la citoyenneté évoluent avec les frontières politiques et économiques, et avec le mouvement des personnes à travers ces frontières. Cependant, peu ont examiné ces transformations en étudiant la façon dont les individus prennent position dans les interactions quotidiennes. Les difficultés économiques et politiques actuelles de l’Ukraine révèlent une déconnexion entre ce que les Ukrainiens de l’Ouest estiment mériter et les réalités économiques qui les poussent à chercher du travail à l’étranger, ce qui est évident dans les opinions divergentes sur les migrations. Dans cet article, je lie l’ethnographie et la théorie des attitudes pour examiner comment les adolescents s’inspirent d’une variété de visions sociales pour évaluer la migration, se positionner eux-mêmes et d’autres en relation avec la migration, et se dissocier des autres dans l’interaction. Les données examinées ici proviennent d’une discussion de groupe informelle tenue dans une école publique d’un quartier de classe moyenne dans l’ouest de l’Ukraine. L’analyse suggère que les attitudes des adolescents vis-à-vis de la migration ukrainienne affectent potentiellement les identités sociales que les adolescents construisent au sein de leurs groupes de pairs existants en introduisant involontairement des identités de classes socio-économiques qui menacent les frontières de groupe basées sur l’amitié. En adoptant ces positions, les adolescents de l’ouest de l’Ukraine expriment également le rôle que la migration joue sur la construction de leur identité et reflètent les perspectives plus larges sur la migration dans la société ukrainienne.

Keywords: identity, stance, youth, migration, Ukraine.


Since the early 1990s, migration from Ukraine has been the result of poor living conditions (Shamshur & Malinovska, 1994) that stem from larger economic troubles: the collapse of the USSR and changing relations with the former Soviet republics; hyperinflation following its 1991 independence; growing unemployment, as well as political instability and corruption (Sutela, 2012; Wilson, 2013). For example, the GDP per capita of Ukraine fell from $1,490 in 1991, to $636 in 1999, and was hit hard during the 2008-2009 global economic crisis (Wilson, 2013). Continuing political instability is evident in the 2004 Orange Revolution, the 2014 Euromaidan protests, the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, and the ongoing military conflict in the eastern Donbass regions. Though Ukrainians have historically migrated throughout Russia and other former Soviet Republics, and to Western Europe and North America to escape the Soviet regime, the persisting economic and social instability of post-1991 has pushed many more to seek work abroad (Hormel & Southworth, 2006; Solari, 2014; Tolstokorova, 2009; Vollmer & Malynovska, 2016). As a result, Ukraine has become one of the top emigration countries in the world, with approximately 12.3% of its population living abroad in 2013 (Ukraine, 2016). While Russia and the United States were the top receiving countries for Ukrainians in 2013 (Ukraine, 2016), for those living in western regions like L’viv, a major city near the European Union border, migration often means travelling to nearby Poland and other European Union countries, such as the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, and Portugal (Fedyuk & Kindler, 2016).

Ukraine’s current economic and political difficulties reveal a disconnect between what western Ukrainians feel they deserve as “Europeans” and the economic realities that drive them to seek work abroad (Montefusco, 2008; Solari, 2010; Tolstokorova, 2009). This disconnect is evident in competing views of migration, which weigh the potential economic advantages against the social disadvantages. On the one hand, migration is viewed by many western Ukrainians as a way to reclaim their pre-Soviet European heritage, through living a “normal” life predicated on achieving a European middle-class lifestyle (Galbraith, 2004; Patico, 2008; Peacock, 2012; 2015; Schulze, 2010). It also gives migrants the opportunity to support their families financially, and to gain the cultural capital that comes with experiencing Europe first-hand (Zhurzhenko, 2010). Remittances, such as providing for a child’s education, help to support those back home and can be the primary support for relatives in rural villages (Dickinson, 2005). In addition, successful migrants can return home with the knowledge and resources to help make their home country “European again.” As Tolstokorova (2009) explains, “Young people with experience of foreign employment have more active positions, higher self-reliance and economic self-sufficiency, and stronger responsibility for their own lives. . . .Furthermore, international experience. . .increases linguistic competence and communication skills, expands cultural horizons and intercultural tolerance” (p.10).

Migration, however, has its downsides. Migrants may find themselves exploited by former co-nationals or locals due to their immigration status, their lack of a social support system, and their inability to speak the local language. While their pay may benefit their families, their status abroad is often that of the underclass, and their absence is often blamed for many of Ukraine’s social problems. This migration puts Ukraine in a bind as it reflects traditional Third World migration patterns (Solari, 2010). The perception that Ukrainian emigrants might come more from a Third World country, rather than a First World one, is evident in some of the risks Ukrainian migrants face, such as human trafficking (Solari, 2010).

There is also fear that migration dissolves the nation, since parents are separated from their children and fewer young adults remain to raise their own families. Though additional economic resources give the children of emigrants valuable social capital, it often comes with a lack of parental attention (Tolstokorova, 2009). Ukrainians who leave to work abroad are often seen as less committed to the nation, as they may never return, and linguistically and culturally assimilate to their host countries of northern and western Europe, Canada, and the United States (cf. Solari, 2014). Those who remain see themselves as having been abandoned, left to solve the country’s problems on their own or to emigrate themselves.

Even the youngest generation in L’viv, who has only known independent Ukraine and has seen the borders of Europe expand to within 60 miles of their home city, is aware of both the potential benefits and risks of migrating to Europe. This generation, even more so than their parents, sees itself as torn between two obligations: the duty to retain their Ukrainian-ness—their language, their culture, their love of the country, on the one hand; and, the expectation to help Ukraine rejoin the rest of the Western world, on the other.

In this article, I examine the stances taken by a group of western Ukrainian teenagers on migration, where a stance is viewed as a type of social action that potentially affects the social identities constructed within their existing peer groups and reflects the broader views on migration in the Ukrainian society. These teenagers draw upon and engage with a variety of social views to evaluate migration, position themselves and others in relationship to migration, and to (dis)align themselves with others in the interaction. They learn particular views about the value of migration from the media, their parents—stories that circulate within their peer and family social networks—and in the attitudes expressed at their schools, such as teachers’ attitudes towards the parents of students who work abroad or in stories that describe migration as the primary source of domestic problems and child neglect. In taking up these stances, western Ukrainian teenagers also convey which of their identities are most salient in the interaction, and the role migration has in who they are and who they want to be.


DuBois (2007) defined stance as “a linguistically articulated form of social action” that is “shaped by the complex interplay of collaborative acts by dialogic co-participants” (p. 139, 142). In order to interpret the meaning of any particular stance, what must be known or inferred from the interaction is the identity of the stance taker, the object of stance-taking, and to what prior stance the stance taker is responding (DuBois, 2007). Stance takers position themselves towards a shared object of the interaction and its context. Such context is important for understanding stance-taking because the positioning of the stance taker, and their alignment to the stances of others, often takes into account existing social relations, the relevant in-the-moment context, and stance taker’s current social identity among their peer groups (Jaffe, 2009; Wortham, 2006). DuBois’ (2007) “stance triangle” emphasizes the process through which speakers perform social acts through stance: as a subject evaluates a shared stance object, they simultaneously position themselves and others, and align themselves with other subjects (p.163). As such, stances can be viewed as “acts of identity” (Le Page & Tabouret-Keller, 1985) that are co-constructed by participants in response to the stances they take towards the shared stance object and the alignments they make toward each other. As the salient social identities of participants are often in-flux, these “identities-in-interaction” (Antaki & Widdicombe, 1998) can play a role in stance-taking and realignment with the stances of others.

More than any other social groups, youth actively engage with processes of identity construction as they distance themselves from their parents, connect to their peers, and otherwise respond to wider social phenomena (Bucholtz, 2002). One way in which they juggle various identities is through the stances they take and the alignments they make with the stances of their peers (Eckert, 1989; Goodwin, 2006). These stances can more clearly reveal the social views and values in wide circulation, as well as illustrate the effects of stance-taking on unfolding interactions. An individual’s stance-taking can be the result of particular social identities, such as class, but can also affect other salient identities, like membership in a particular friendship group.


The data examined here comes from a larger 16-month research project conducted in L’viv, Ukraine in 2006-2007, which investigated what the first generation of independent Ukraine learned about “being Ukrainian”, and how they were developing a sense of national identity. To these ends, I conducted participant observations, semi-structured interviews, and informal group discussions with teachers, students, and parents at two neighborhood public secondary schools. The Taras Shevchenko school was located in a working-class neighborhood, comprised of several Soviet-era apartment blocks. Ivan Franko was located in a middle-class neighborhood with detached homes in an area historically associated with L’viv’s intellectual elite.i Between the two schools, I followed three cohorts during their 8th and 9th grade years, attended a variety of classes with them, spent time visiting their homes, and asked them about current events, their uses of language, and their views on what it meant to be Ukrainian. For the purpose of this paper, I will focus on the analysis of the data collected during one informal group discussion at Ivan Franko school, which focused on students’ future aspirations, attitudes and experiences with international travel, and what they had heard about Ukrainians living abroad. The audio recording of the discussion was transcribed and translated. Instances of stance-taking (IST) were selected from the session and were examined within the context of the emerging interaction by taking into consideration DuBois’ (2007) “stance triangle”, as well as the ethnographically-informed context of the backgrounds and relations between individual students.

During the project, migration emerged as an important point of discussion among teachers and parents. At Taras Shevchenko, parents’ work abroad was viewed as problematic, one that was often voiced by the students’ homeroom teacher during her public scolding of two boys whose mothers worked in Italy and, in her opinion, their poor grandmothers were hopeless in keeping the boys properly disciplined. According to her, without their mothers at home, the boys were destined to become delinquents. The issue of migration at the middle-class school, on the other hand, was more nuanced. Though some students at Ivan Franko had parents working in lower-income jobs abroad, and so were unable to visit their families on a regular basis, migration was not limited to the working class. Rather, working or being educated abroad had an appeal for those with more financial means; a middle-class teenager, for example, could envision gaining both a college degree and first-hand experience of living in a foreign country.

At both schools, two views of migration were apparent in the stances students took toward the issue of migration. The positive view focused on the financial and personal benefits of going abroad. The negative view centered on the dangers of being a migrant in a foreign land and the neglect of one’s family that it resulted in. This negative view was also found towards other students and their stances, including students who were close friends and those who were merely classmates. As such, not all uses of these two views on the value of migration resulted in disruptions of the existing group boundaries. Rather, participants’ stances at times reinforced these boundaries and at other times challenged them.


Friendship groups among teenagers in Ukraine often cross class boundaries, as the socialist value of equality among people continues to prevail. In typical interactions, different classroom statuses allow for the most vocal students to disagree with others with little risk to the existing social relationships, which are based on their status in a peer group, class, and shared interests. The instances of stance-taking that follow occurred during a group discussion among one cohort of 8th graders at Ivan Franko, which was attended by nine girls and two boys, and was held in a classroom after school. The most vocal participants were girls who belonged to two different friendship groups. Ksenya and Vika both come from middle-class families, and are part of the “popular” girls’ friendship group. Whereas, Vika comes from the long-standing middle-class intelligentsia in L’viv, Ksenya’s family is part of the emerging “new” middle class. Her father is an independent businessman and her mother is a housewife by choice, not because of any lack of employment opportunities. Her entire family has also traveled abroad, including a family trip to Egypt with the family of another girl at school. Marta and Sofiya are part of another friendship group in the class. Marta is working-class, the daughter of flower sellers who often send her to spend summers with her rural relatives. Sofiya, like Ksenya, is also part of the emerging middle class; her father migrated to the United States and was working there during that time.

In IST 1 below, class differences lead to competing perspectives on the need to migrate in order to obtain gainful employment.

IST 1: Employment opportunities in Ukraine

Marta ale v Ukrajini lihshi umoby but it’s ideal conditions in Ukraine
Ksenya ale v polovyny= but in the middle=
Nadiya =na naihirshykh robotakh= =in the worst work=
Ksenya =ne znaidesh sobi robota, jakshcho v tebe ne maje, napryklad, vyshchoji osvity, bez vyshchoji osvity nikuda ne berut’, rozumijut’ =you can’t find work for yourself, if you don’t have, for example, a higher education, without a higher education you can’t go anywhere, you know
Marta Mozhna! [mozhna znaity You can! [you can find
FSTii [mozhna znaity, Ksenja, robota shchob [you can find, Ksenya, work that
Marta Ksenya, v Ukrajini zara povno roboty, to ne, to shcho p”jat’ rokiv tomu, prosto ljudy vvyjizhdzhajut’ tuda z [Ukrajiny Ksenya, now in Ukraine there’s full-time work, it’s not like five years ago, it’s just that people migrate there from [Ukraine
Ksenya [ljudy vvyjizhajut’, tomu shcho vony khochut’ krashchoho [zhyttja [people migrate because they want a better [life
Vika [dumaju [I think


Though migrating abroad is unnecessary according to those like working-class Marta, middle-class Ksenya finds migration to be the best and only choice for those with limited education, as well as a way for the middle class to meet their own financial and education goals. In their attempts to take the floor—evidenced by their supporting peers’ latching and overlapping, and Ksenya’s overlap—Marta’s and Ksenya’s opposing stances reinforce their different class positions and friendship group identities.

When multiple identifications are at play, participants can also maneuver their positions in order to favor one identity over another, such as refining one’s stance to align with the morality of one’s peers rather than other non-peers. Though Ksenya and Sofiya usually occupy different positions in the classroom social order, in IST 2, they find themselves taking a similar stance on the value of living abroad, but give different reasons for doing so.

IST 2: I want to live in Ukraine, but. . .

Marta a khochu zhyty v Ukrajini ale maty majetok= I want to live in Ukraine but have an estate=
Sofiya =a ja tozhe khochu zhtyty v kvartyry ale v Londoni =and I also want to live in an apartment but in London
Nadiya v Londoni, duzhe dorohi kvartyry, So[fi in London, apartments are really expensive, So[fi
Sofiya [a nu j shi, ale vse odno meni duzhe Anhlija [podobavajet’sja [so what, it doesn’t matter to me, I really [like England
Nadiya [tam hodynnyky (rzhavijut’) [there’s a clock they ( )
Sofiya meni L’ondon duzhe syl’no podobajet’sja khot’ na p”jat’ khvylyn for me, London is really grand, I liked it after five minutes
((segment skipped))
Vika ja ne khochu…a meni podobaju’tsja v Ukrajini I don’t want to ((go abroad))…I like being in Ukraine
Nadiya a ja b khotila tak mozhe [na ne vse zhyttja I would like to, maybe [but not all my life
Ksenya [ja b khotila pojikhaty za kordon navchatysja, ale ne zhyty [I would like to go abroad to study, but not to live
Maryna Ta yeah
Ksenya a potim povernulasja and return after
Nadiya u v vas taka niby vy zaraz jak vchytesja ale, tak, nu, piznajete svit, nu, mozhete jizdyty tam po svitu for you now it’s as if you’re like studying but, yeah, well, you get to know the world, well, you can go there all over the world
Vika a my, sho ne mozhem? and what about us, we can’t?

While Sofiya favours living in a foreign country due to the more comfortable lifestyle and higher standard of living she could gain there, Ksenya finds the experience of living in another country as a way to improve her life back in Ukraine. Rather than seeking a more comfortable European life and contributing to the country’s growing “brain drain” problem (cf. Solari, 2010), Ksenya’s goal is to get a professional degree at a European university and then return to Ukraine. Though Ksenya agrees with Sofiya that not everything is bad about living abroad, she places more emphasis on her desire to return to Ukraine, framing her desire to emigrate as a particular, demarcated stage in her life, not as the lifetime goal that Sofiya holds. By emphasizing how her stance diverges from Sofiya’s, Ksenya is able to maintain her social distance from Sofiya. Ksenya elaborates in IST 3, where she navigates her similar stance to Sofiya while also managing her disalignment from her close friend, Vika.

IST 3: They want to see something else

Ksenya chomu za kordon? why go abroad?
Sofiya bo za kordonom lipshe, meni zdajet’sja= because it’s easier abroad it seems to me=
Vika =ni ni =no no
Sofiya tak yes
FST ja protestuju I’m against it
((dull thud, followed by laughter))
Natalya tam baksy , baksy zeleni there’s bucks, green bucks
Ksenya ni nje tomu shcho khochet’sja pobachyty shos’ inshe nizh v nas ne til’ky nashu Ukrajinu tobto za kordonom vse rivno jakis’ inshi ljudy spilkuvannja inshe no no because they want to see something different, not only what we have in Ukraine, that is, abroad everything is different, different people and other kinds of interactions

In this way, Ksenya is able to present an identity of a future moral Ukrainian emigrant, one who uses emigration for life improvements and then returns home. By spending time in another country, migrants can experience things that cannot be experienced at home, and can return to Ukraine with greater world experience. In taking this stance, however, Ksenya finds resistance from her friends Vika and Natalya. Vika’s “no” works to reject Sofiya’s claims that life abroad is “easier”, but also foretells her later stance against the value of migration (IST 4). Natalya’s emphasis on seeking money, specifically U.S. dollars (“bucks”), also indirectly resists Ksenya’s claim that migrating leads to deeper changes in the migrants themselves. Though Ksenya is able to negatively align from Sofiya’s position, her strong support of migration reveals possible disalignment from her own friends.

Marta’s and Ksenya’s class identities in IST 1, and Sofiya’s and Ksenya’s class identities in IST 2-3, do not subsume their existing peer group identities. However, a person’s stance-taking can result in the domination of some of identities over others even if the person does not intentionally seek to highlight the dominating identities. Though both Ksenya and Vika belong to the same friendship group, they find themselves taking different stances on whether working abroad is beneficial for Ukrainians. From Ksenya’s perspective, as part of the new middle class, she claims that Ukrainians without a college degree can work as managers and earn more money in Europe than those with degrees in Ukraine. In contrast, Vika comes from a family who is part of city’s long-standing, urban middle class, which values education for itself and which retains social prestige but not necessarily the financial resources equal to that status. As such, Vika challenges Ksenya’s claim saying, “they aren’t managers”, which aligns with Marta’s earlier stance in the discussion (not shown here) that these migrants “abandon their families” when they move abroad to work.

In an effort to explain her view, Vika describes the precarious position of Ukrainian migrants by presenting a narrative about her grandmother’s friend, a woman who found herself in prison in IST 4.

IST 4: Where do you appeal, if you’re not a resident?

Vika I taka sama Italija, pojikhala mojeji babtsi podruzhka, i sho ty dumajesh? jij zrobyly nepravyl’ni dokumenty, vona v tjurmi cydila prosto tak, prosto tak, piv rokiv bo jiji zrobyla tam nepravyl’ni dokumenty, ne tut, jiji zrobyla nepravyl’ni, a tam, i tak povyna ljudej And it’s the same in Italy, my grandmother’s friend went, and what do you think? They made her illegal documents, she sat in prison, yeah only, only, yeah for half a year because she had illegal documents with her there, not here, illegal ones made for her there, and- and, yeah, people have to do it
Lana mozhna ljudy, nu i sho? people might, so what of it?
Vika a sho, nu i sho? Ljudyna prosto tak v tjurmi sydila? tomu shcho jiji hospodari zrobyly jij nepravyl’ni dokumenty and what, so what? people just have to go to jail? because her bosses made illegal documents for her
FST Vsjaki robljat’ dokumenty they make all kinds of documents
Vika a zvidky vona znala sho nepravyl’ni, a tak pobynni ljudej kuda ty zverneshsja, jaksho ty ne mistseva? and how did she know they were illegal? but people have to. where do you appeal, if you’re not a resident?
Ksenya dobre, Vika. davai good, Vika. give us the next one
((open palm hit on tabletop)) ((open palm hit on tabletop))
Nadiya ty musysh ity v jakes’ posol’stvo, zrobyjaty svoji dokumenty, tobi zh ne hospodari tuda idut’ vyrobljaty jikh? you have to go to some kind of embassy, to get your own documents, not have the boss there go and do them for you?
Vika tak, vizu to vsë tak, ale shob vona maje dokumenty [sho vona tam mozhe perebuvaty yeah, all visas are like that, but if she has documents [that she can look over there
Sofiya [ale vona mozhe pereviryty= [but she can verify them=
Nadiya =Vika, vona mozhna pereviryty, khto znaje ukrajins’ku movu, khto pratsjuje, i pereviryty documenty =Vika, she can verify them, someone knows Ukrainian, someone works there, and verify the documents
Ksenya davaite tak, skil’ky poluchaje nasha sidjelka? hryven’ p’jat sot, shist sot, ne bil’she. v misjats’. skil’ky polochaje tam zhe sama sidjelka z Ukrajiny? ja dumaju shcho= tell me, how much does our nurse get? five, six hundred hryven, not more. a month. how much does this nurse from Ukraine probably get there on her own? I think that=
Maryna =°tysjachu dolariv°= =°a thousand dollars°=
Ksenya =tysjachu dolariv, vona des’ tak i poluchaje- ljudy- Vika, tam vyshchyj riven’ zhyttja, rozumijesh? =a thousand dollars, she gets around that, peop- Vika, it’s a higher standard of living, you know?
Sofiya tam mozhe hirshe znannja, ale lipshyj riven’ zhyttja, °ja- ja prosto hovorju° maybe there’s worse information there, but it’s an ideal the standard of living, °I- I only say°
Vika dobre. vsë. good. and that’s all.
Ksenya [davaite dal’she= [give us another one=
FST [davaite dal’she= [give us another one=
Ksenya =bo zaraz posvarymsja =because now we’re fighting

In her narrative, Vika paints a bleak picture of the Ukrainian migrant as a person who has no choice but to migrate with false documents, and who is powerless at the hands of both the Ukrainian and the European states where they end up. In telling this story, the discussion shifts towards issues of immigrant labour rights, forcing the group to face the deeper ramifications of migration beyond employment opportunities and livable wages. After attempting to change the subject, Ksenya repeats her initial stance: the hopes of higher wages are enough to justify why Ukrainians would risk becoming undocumented workers in Europe. While the girls agree that migration will solve many of the economic hardships Ukrainians face at home, their peer group harmony is threatened over the reality that those of different socioeconomic classes may have very different migration experiences and opportunities.

These teenagers find themselves crossing the existing peer group boundaries in taking various stances on migration. Just as Ksenya unexpectedly finds herself positively aligning with non-friend Sofiya in their shared desire to live in Europe, Vika now finds herself in alignment with working-class, non-friends in her desire to remain living Ukraine and in her apprehension of working abroad. Furthermore, the experience of her grandmother’s friend has had an impact on Vika’s stance on migration. If someone like her grandmother’s friend could only migrate with falsified documents and potentially end up in jail because of them, then others like her might one day end up in a similar position. For Vika, undocumented migration is not only the fate of the poor or uneducated, it could happen to a middle-class person like herself.

The Ukraines and Europes that these teenagers describe contrast both economically and morally. The stances taken by these teenage girls support the idea that many Ukrainians migrate for good reasons. Ksenya’s stance in favor of migration highlights the superior European schooling system, and the benefits that higher European wages can bring to migrants, their families, and wider Ukraine in the long term. However, these teenagers hold divergent stances when it comes to the value of migration at a larger scale. For Vika and many of her working-class peers, living abroad can also lead to the rejection of Ukraine, an immoral greediness and focus on individual improvement over that of one’s community, and a life of ease that ignores and avoids the problems faced by their compatriots living in Ukraine. In addition, migration may take away their social support networks and leave them at the mercy of foreign powers, regardless of their social class. This latter stance suggests a traditionally moral Ukraine and a degraded Europe that threatens it; if all of Ukraine were to become like this Europe, it would no longer be Ukraine.


The stances taken and discussed in the ISTs towards migration are connected to the teenagers’ perceptions of Ukraine, and Ukrainians, at the multiple levels (Peacock, 2012; 2016). For example, their stances contrast Ukrainians who decide to migrate and those who do not, between Ukrainian emigrants and those living in their host countries, and between the typical life in Ukraine and in these host countries. Among their various stances, the teenagers seem to agree that western Ukrainians have found themselves on the losing side of the “have-nots,” while the countries abroad provide better opportunities for education and better financial gains, which makes it more difficult for them to become “normal” and “European”, as they deserve.

In their stance-taking, young people draw upon views and values of migration to position themselves both towards the topic of migration, and to align themselves towards their peers. When these views are situated within different logic worlds, however, stance-taking can become a complex process of multiple participants working together to manage (dis)alignments and maintain the pre-existing social order. Participants’ various competing social identities may also influence how they position themselves towards contentious issues and other participants’ stances. Emerging social class identities, such as those in places under transition, can affect which views and values young people are most familiar with, as well as which expectations they hold. In other words, stance-taking, and the worlds that create and are created in the process of stance-taking, highlight the various ways in which people may live in different worlds, worlds that delimit the kinds of experiences they have and what kind of people they may become.

In western Ukraine, teenagers’ stances on migration are shaped by their social positions and the particular worlds these positions create. In the examples discussed in this paper, the stances taken by the Ukrainian teenagers show how they try to make meaning of the conflicting views on migration that exist in the Ukrainian society. The stances they take reflect their values, their aspirations, and their fears. These stances also reflect teenagers’ attempts to try to make meaning of the conflicting views on migration and the life abroad that circulate in the mainstream society. At the same time, the stances the teenagers take bring up underlying social differences, such as social class and their status in a peer group, which unintentionally threaten to disrupt the existing friendship group identities and boundaries. As these teenagers work to manage their conflicting evaluations of Ukrainian migration, they simultaneously mitigate or highlight their (dis)alignments with their peers along friendship and class lines.

The ways in which these youth view Ukrainian migrants can also have a larger impact on Ukrainian society. The debates over whether migrants are retaining or rejecting their Ukrainian identity reveal not just ambivalence towards the role of Ukraine in various perspectives of global migration, but also in how to define Ukrainian identity. While some leave little room for emigrants to remain authentically Ukrainian, others see emigrants as potentially creating a new kind of a hyphenated, dual identity, one that combines the best of Ukraine and Europe.


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i The names of both schools and all participants are pseudonyms.
ii FST refers to a female student who could not be identified by name on the audio recording.

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