Wartime Malleability: Shopping malls and the everyday urban experience in the Russian War on Ukraine
Since the beginning of the millennium, neoliberal East European cities have seen a profound growth in the number of malls. Its newfound centrality to the region’s urbanity reflects the mall’s ‘malleability’ (Gosseye and Avermaete, 2018) – its distinctive ability to permeate borders and successfully integrate itself into a variety of 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. This interaction between the mall and the war is a relatively new phenomenon, exhibited in Russia’s war on Ukraine on an unprecedented scale.
My research analyses this relationship between the war 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 the wider region. This is particularly important given the 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 nebulous concepts ranging from geopolitics and sanctions to ideology and morality are crystalised. Such analysis thus assists us in understanding the ‘everyday lived experience’ of wartime.