My main research interest is in political and inter-ethnic violence. In my first book project (working manuscript), Webs of Violence: Occupation, Revolution, and Terror in Western Ukraine, 1941-1944, I examine the region of Volhynia in western Ukraine during the Nazi occupation. Volhynia was one of most violent regions in all of Eastern Europe, as it was home to Soviet partisan warfare, a Ukrainian nationalist uprising, brutal Nazi occupation policies, the genocide of Jews, and widespread inter-ethnic violence. What once was a mosaic of ethno-religious communities living in relative peace until the 20th century had dissolved into civil war by 1941. Drawing on ten years of archival research in five countries, I bring a micro-level lens to these violent episodes through a series of case studies. As a result, I demonstrate how larger structural conditions of the Nazi occupation and 1939-41 Soviet occupation affected this society, and I trace the biographies of Volhynians and explaining how and why they became involved in violence during the war. Whether looking at Volhynians in Ukrainian or Polish nationalist cells, Soviet partisan groups, collaborators in the auxiliary police, peasants involved in ethnic cleansing operations, I provide a full picture of their pre-war histories, as well as their actions during the war. My findings challenge often static conceptualizations of political and ethnic groups, as well as the triad of perpetrators, victims, and bystanders, which tends to essentialize identities and conceive group formation as pre-determined. I show that though ideologies (here nationalism and communism) certainly affected the choices of some, many more became inculcated in cultures of violence as a result of social upheaval, material needs, forms of coercion, and pre-war social networks. Moreover, I demonstrate how Volhynians often shifted their identities and group associations, as well as stances toward violence throughout the occupation. My research has the potential to inform future studies of ethnic and political violence in borderland regions beyond Ukraine, as well as contribute to discussions in genocide studies and social scientific approaches to the study of violence.
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