Liberty after Liberalism: Emancipatory Struggles in Ukrainian Journalism, 1998-2021


The post-Cold War moment saw global experiments in liberating the world through capitalist markets and liberal democracy, whether natural or orchestrated through programmes of political engineering. How have these experiments shaped understandings of freedom in the former Soviet ‘empire of justice’? This question was adderessed by focusing on Ukrainian journalists’ struggles against the power of oligarchs and other media patrons between 1998-2021. The speaker traced how Russian interference, patronal domination, and organisational imperatives of grants promoting freedom of speech, have transformed what had begun as a solidarity movement against media censorship, into a divisive, moralised struggle over who counts as ‘real’ journalist in Ukraine. He argued that we can best understand this transformation if we pay attention to the centrality of the idea of freedom as non-domination to Ukrainian journalists’ struggles; and that this freedom’s tense relation to freedom of speech points to contradictory complexities of liberty after liberalism. 

Taras Fedirko is Lecturer in Organised Crime and Corruptionis at University of Glasgow. As a political and economic anthropologist he is working on relations between power, profit, and morality. He is Fellow at the Centre on Armed Groups (Geneva), and co-editor of the political & legal anthropology column of Anthropology News. During his stay as Ukraine in European Dialogue Fellow at IWM, Taras Fedirko plans to work on two projects exploring the transformation of Ukraine’s civic elites over the last decade: a book about conflicts within the Ukrainian journalistic profession in the context of oligarchic competition, inter imperial rivalry, and the war in Donbas; and an article about the informal economy of the war in Ukraine since 2014.

This talk was moderated by Katherine Younger, Permanent Fellow and Research Director of the Ukraine in European Dialogue program at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM). 

Further discussants were:

Timothy Snyder is the Levin Professor of History and Global Affairs at Yale University and Permanent Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM).

Mary Kaldor is Professor for Global Governance at London School of Economics and Political Science.

A recording of the live-stream is available below.