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Vita Zelenska

Project: What Does it Mean to Be a Refugee? Sites of Knowledge Production and Their Asymmetrical Entanglements


Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ger Duijzings

Vita Zelenska is a researcher, curator, and artist working in the spheres of the anthropology of sound, cultural anthropology, and sound studies. She graduated from the European University at Saint-Petersburg with a major in cultural anthropology (MA). Her research interests include political agency, subjectivity, and production of space (space-in-the-making).

Project description:

This project will be dedicated to the study of various loci of knowledge production about what it means to be a refugee in Greece and in the USA. It explores developments during the last four years following the transformation of the Frontex border force into the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. The key question is: how is our knowledge of the category of “a refugee” produced through forms of embodied, academic, activist, artistic and technological practice? The objects of my study will be multiple. First of all, I will explore the production of embodied knowledge among the displaced themselves; secondly, I will address the problem of dominant media frames, oversaturated as they are with refugee images; thirdly, I will shadow researchers, artists and activists to learn how the notion of the ‘refugee’ is being shaped and perceived through forms of embodied non-academic and academic knowledge production protocols. Attention will also be paid to how the state ‘knows’ and constructs ‘refugees’, by looking at identification and surveillance procedures and technologies used to identify and sort migrants (into refugees and economic migrants for example), comparing and juxtaposing these with those used by academics, artists and activists. The main method of my study will be multi-sited research in Athens, New-York and in smaller areas carefully selected during my pilot studies. My own privileged position as a researcher will be continuously and self-reflexively problematized throughout the research.

Zelenska, V. (2023) The Limitations of Sonic Offer. Seismograf [Peer-Reviewed Audio Paper]

Zelenska, V. (2023) An article that refuses to write itself. Fennia 201(2) 261–265.   

Zelenska, V. (2021) Researching sound as political, Neprikosnovennyi zapas N134 6 (2020) [in Russian].

June 2021
Science and Technology Studies Italy conference “Dis/entangling Technoscience”, Trieste, Italy/online
Title of the presentation: “Questioning “representation” of forced migration in media”

June 2021
International Society for Ethnology and Folklore Congress “Breaking the rules? Power, participation and transgression”, Helsinki/online
Title of the presentation: “Voicing frustration. Researching migration in contemporary Greece”

August 2021
Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference (with IBG), London/online
Title of the presentation: “Refusal to speak for/without/around/about”

October 2021
Field Sound Recordings: Music, Speech, Landscape, Saint-Petersburg/Moscow/online
Title of the presentation: “Anthropological field as a sonic project”