Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Greta Lynn Uehling's "Everyday War"

Greta Lynn Uehling is a lecturer at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Beyond Memory: The Crimean Tatars’ Deportation and Return.

Uehling applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Everyday War: The Conflict over Donbas, Ukraine, and reported the following:
Page 99 in my book provides a transition between two of the most important stories in the book. As such, the page both reveals a core insight of the book as a whole, and gestures toward two ways in which it manifests.

On page 99, browsers first encounter a portion of Oleksandra’s story. As I explain in previous pages of Everyday War, Oleksandra abandoned her university studies to raise funds and provision her father with the night vision goggles, boots, and gloves he needed to fulfill his role as a sniper in a volunteer battalion. On page 99, I call this aspect of everyday war “tactical kinship” because a close family relationship was leveraged for Ukraine’s defense at a time when the official military was relatively weak. Goggles, boots, and gloves are only seemingly mundane: Oleksandra prioritized her father’s safety with the full knowledge his targets were former neighbors and friends.

Browsers then encounter the story of a woman I call Larysa. Her son enlisted in a Ukrainian airborne division that was attempting to regain territory lost to the Russian- backed forces. He was shot down and perished near the family’s ancestral home. As I explain on page 99, the loss of his life was made more painful and problematic by the fact that Larysa’s mother had contributed funds to the Russian-backed administration, and her sister worked for that administration. Larysa decided she no longer identified as Russian or wanted to associate with her mother and sister. Family matters became secondary and the defense of Ukraine was elevated above all else.

On page 99, browsers also find a glimpse into my research. As a cultural anthropologist, I spoke with many people in Ukraine, completing approximately 150 interviews over three years of research. On page 99, I describe some of the trepidation I felt prior to meeting Larysa at a café. I was concerned about retraumatizing her if we spoke of her son, and wanted to make sure she felt comfortable. As a matter of professional ethics, I took steps to avoid causing harm to the people I spoke with throughout my work in Ukraine.

The Page 99 Test works well for my book. The only limitation is that one arrives a bit late for the telling of Oleksandra’s story, and leaves before my description of Larysa’s experience concludes. Browsers already appreciate that one can’t possibly gain a full picture on a single page.

Page 99 reveals both a central theme and two variations of Everyday War. Whereas Oleksandra’s family unified against the Russian threat, Larysa’s family was deeply divided by it. Either way, as I argue in Everyday War, families and friendships are integral to how war is waged. Far from tangents or backdrops of war, personal relationships are important to the “real” action shaping how and why Ukrainians resist Russian aggression.
Learn more about Everyday War at Greta Uehling's website.

--Marshal Zeringue