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Seasonal Migration as Local Practical Knowledge: Historical Continuity and Change in Rural Soviet Transcarpathia (1940s–1960s) (2020-2021)
Transnational labor migration from the western border regions of Ukraine is often explained by macro-economic factors: the unemployment that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and generally low wages. In this paper I argue for a more complex, culturally informed and historicized understanding of labor migration. I show that in Transcarpathia, labor migration has a history of at least one to one and a half centuries, from the second half of the 19th century to this day. I especially focus on the “translation” of the local traditionalized practices of mobility into the Soviet system in the late 1940s and early 1950s, following
Transcarpathia’s annexation by the USSR. Understanding seasonal migration as a historically shaped competence of local communities and conceptually framing it in terms of “local practical knowledge” and “cultural reserve” allows to question the deterministic impact of macro-political factors and instead pay due attention to the grassroots knowledge and agency.