My research starts with the assertion that political science needs to know more about the lived experiences and informal practices of identities and institutions. Of particular interest for my research are the lived experiences of ethnic identities in post-Soviet contexts and citizenship regimes, particularly when citizenship policies (and quasi-citizenship policies) are made available by external states on the basis of claims of co-ethnicity.
I use theories of everyday nationalism to explore, from below and from a people-centred perspective, what ethnic identities mean (e.g. what does it mean to be Russian in Crimea? What does it mean to be Romanian in Moldova?) and how kin-state policies are practised (e.g. Romanian citizenship). To do this, I collected 53 interviews in Crimea and 55 interviews in Moldova between 2012 and 2013 with a range of people including students, young people from political parties, and everyday people.
I’m not interested in census categories or data; I’m interested in how people explain their identification and the rationales they use to explain how and why they identify as they do, whether ethnic, political, territorial, linguistic or cultural. I’m also not interested in being “representative”, a question I often get asked. A sample size of 50 can never claim, nor should it claim, to be “representative” of a wider population of 2-2.5 million people. This is not the point of project. Rather, I’m interested in gathering a range of contrasting and contradictory perspectives to look at different sides of what it means to be Romanian or Russian, and different and contrasting perspectives on engagement with Romania and Russia via kin-state policies, such as citizenship.
These perspectives are not “anecdotes” (another popular question) because of the way in which rigour was built into the data collection and analysis, to produce rich bottom-up data across two cases which could be analysed comparatively.
I discuss more about the methodology of my current research in a recent publication: Knott, Eleanor (2015) Generating Data: Studying Identity Politics From a Bottom-Up Perspective in Crimea and Moldova, East European Politics and Societies, 29: 467-486, doi:10.1177/0888325415584047 [accessible pdf]