European Humanities University (EHU) lecturer Volha Sasunkevich successfully defended her PhD summa cum laude at Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald (Germany). Her thesis concentrated on the cross-border trading engaged in by Belarusian women.
“The aim of my dissertation was to reconstruct the history of the Belarus-Lithuania border region after the collapse of the USSR through the perspective of women involved in cross-border informal economic activities (“shuttle trade”)....to understand to what extent the border mattered for the emergence and development of shuttle trade in this borderland,” Sasunkevich explained.
Her dissertation represents four years of writing and empirical studies. Sasunkevich credits her experience as an EHU student with inspiring her to analyse the subject.
“My first attempt to think about this region, as well as cross-border petty trade practices, was made during my frequent travels between Minsk and Vilnius when I was a Master student at the European Humanities University. Crossing the Belarus-Lithuania border on a bus with shuttle traders, I was constantly comparing my experience of cross-border mobility to theirs. To grasp the difference in these experiences, the whole theoretical idea about political borders and social boundaries was later developed. Thus, my studies at EHU were a turning point for my academic career as well as for my research interests,” says Sasunkevich.
Sasunkevich said she is grateful to colleagues and friends from the EHU Center for Gender Studies—particularly to her mentor, founding director of the Center, Dr. Elena Gapova, and to the Head of the Master Program in Cultural Studies, Prof. Almira Ousmanova.
“Without their support and belief in this topic, I would have been barely able to develop it into a research project,” notes Sasunkevich.
Her future plans include publishing the dissertation as a book and starting a new research project about the Polish minority in the Belarusian city of Hrodna, located near the borders of Poland and Lithuania.