Oliver Banatvala (UCL) - 2021-22 Students

Conflict Malleability: Shopping malls and urban conflict in the Russian-Ukrainian War

Over the last 20 years, neoliberal East European cities have seen a profound growth in the number of malls. Its centrality to neoliberal East European urbanity reflects its distinct ability to permeate borders and successfully integrate itself into new cultural contexts. At the same time, much of the war in Ukraine is taking place in terrain which can be defined as ‘urban’, meaning the mall has become deeply integrated into the ongoing war.

My project analyses the intersection between the conflict and the mall. It explores malls both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ what is understood as the ‘battlefield’ in its traditional sense, drawing together physical bombardment with ongoing metamorphoses elsewhere in Ukraine, Russia, and Poland. This is particularly important given the ‘asymmetrical’ nature of so-called ‘hybrid warfare’, which is widely seen as a key component of this war. It shows urban space to be an arena where relatively abstract and intangible concepts ranging from sanctions and geopolitics to ideology and morality are crystallized. This analysis is crucial in assisting us to understand the ‘everyday lived experience’ of wartime, as well as the specificities of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Primary supervisor: Dr Michał Murawski, UCL
Secondary supervisor: Prof Murray Fraser, UCL

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