AABS Awards Vilis Vītols Prize to Best JBS Articles for 2022 and 2023

Jun 16, 2024

The Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies is pleased to announce its selection of two Journal of Baltic Studies (JBS) articles to receive the 2022 and 2023 Vilis Vītols Article Prize.

Kadri Aavik and Maarja Saar have been awarded the 2022 Prize for their article, “Negotiating neoliberalism in the private sphere: narratives of Estonian single mothers,” published in JBS 53:1.

Volha Bartash has been awarded the 2023 Prize for her article, “Mnemonic border-crossings: how Roma communities from the Baltic borderlands remember their shared past,” published in JBS 54:1.

The Vītols annual award of $500 is presented to the author of the best article in a given year of the Journal of Baltic Studies. The best article is selected by a committee appointed by the AABS board. Priority is given to articles that encompass more than one Baltic country and thus expressly represent Baltic Studies. The winners of the Vilis Vītols Article Prize are announced once every two years.

AABS congratulates the winners of the 2022 and 2023 Vītols Prizes and thanks all scholars who continue to publish articles and book reviews in JBS.

Kadri Aavik & Maarja Saar (2021) Negotiating neoliberalism in the private sphere: narratives of Estonian single mothers, Journal of Baltic Studies, 53:1, 1-18, DOI: 10.1080/01629778.2021.1980071

Neoliberalism has become a prevalent ideology in most central and eastern European (CEE) countries. Most studies on the processes and effects of neoliberalization concentrate on the public sphere. Some feminist scholars argue that young middle-class women are increasingly becoming the bearers of neoliberalism – encouraged to achieve success in multiple areas of life. There is, however, a lack of empirical research on how women engage with neoliberal ideals in post-socialist settings. This article draws on 25 interviews with single mothers in Estonia to discuss how neoliberal ideology manifests itself in the private sphere. 

Our findings suggest that single mothers have an ambivalent relationship with neoliberalism as they are both challenging as well as reproducing this ideology in their everyday practices of gender and motherhood. On the one hand, they acknowledged and at times attempted to live up to certain powerful societal expectations, such as the pressure to look good and to be a ‘successful’ (single) parent, ensuring that their children get a head start from early on. On the other hand, they were critical of such expectations and felt that they were unable to adequately live up to these ideals. Yet, they also emphasized taking significant personal responsibility and constructed themselves as freely choosing subjects, including presenting single motherhood as a choice. As single motherhood is relatively common in Estonia (as well as in other Baltic states), the experiences of our interviewees help to understand how gender is performed in the private sphere by this significant group of women.

Please note that this article’s online publication date was in 2021, but its print publication was 2022, thus making it eligible for the 2022 Vītols Prize.

Dr. Kadri Aavik is Associate Professor of Gender Studies at Tallinn University, Estonia. Her research interests include gender inequality in the labour market, discourses on the gender pay gap, critical approaches to men and masculinities, human-animal relations, sustainability and veganism. Her latest books are Contesting Anthropocentric Masculinities: Lived Experiences of Vegan Men (Palgrave, 2023), Feminist Animal and Multispecies Studies: Critical Perspectives on Food and Eating (co-edited with Kuura Irni and Milla-Maria Joki) (Brill, 2024) and Routledge Handbook on Men, Masculinities and Organizations: Theories, Practices and Futures of Organizing (co-edited with Jeff Hearn, David Collinson and Anika Thym)(Routledge, 2024).  

A blonde woman with glasses

Dr. Maarja Saar is a senior lecturer at Mid Sweden University. Her main interest is in migration, social protection, and discourses on deservingness. She is currently working on a project related to Russian and Belarussian migrants in Lithuania and Poland and how these migrants are both perceived by those societies as well as how they themselves interpret their belonging.

Volha Bartash (2023) Mnemonic border-crossings: how Roma communities from the Baltic borderlands remember their shared past, Journal of Baltic Studies, 54:1, 67-86, DOI: 10.1080/01629778.2023.2161589

How have Roma communities, separated by state boundaries, remembered and commemorated the Nazi genocide? How have they communicated and mourned for their losses across shifting borders? This article explores the complex relationship between community memory and borders, drawing on the author´s oral history and ethnographic research in the Lithuanian – Belarusian and Belarusian – Latvian border regions.

Departing from family histories of Roma before, during, and after the Nazi genocide, the article takes several analytical directions by: linking the memory paths with the trajectories of Roma communities; highlighting the ways in which changing border regimes have shaped a Romani commemoration practice; and revealing communicative aspects of cross-border memories. The article outlines a phenomenon of a cross-border memory community. Such communities are based on family and community networks of Roma, their shared histories, and attitudes toward the past, for instance, nostalgia for the Soviet time. The last section of the article demonstrates how the Soviet nostalgia interweaves with the commemoration of the Nazi genocide.

Keywords: Cross-border memory community, Lithuanian–Belarusian–Latvian borderlands, Nazi genocide of Roma, public commemoration, memory politics, Soviet nostalgia

A woman in a floral shirt and a cardigan standing in front of a flowering plant

Dr. Volha Bartash is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Regensburg and a research fellow at the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies. She has published on the history and culture of Roma communities in Belarus and Lithuania, as well as on their memory of the Nazi genocide and World War II. Bartash’s current research interests include the relationship of history and memory, memory and borders, grassroots activism and the state. Methodologically, her research seeks to integrate archival history, oral history and ethnography. Bartash is committed to the practice of writing history “from below” and reconstructing the experiences of vulnerable and marginalized populations.

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