Citizenship, What…? Contested internal borders in Estonia

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In this ‘provocative’ geopolitical master thesis a deviating theoretical lens has been deployed to explore the openness of the border. It has sought to widen the scope of borders as they represent institutionalized representation of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Rather, this thesis has aimed at opening the border as a space of continual contestation. By using a Foucauldian lens this thesis has shown that the border is ‘more’ than the top-down ordering of space. Through all kinds of laws and duties enforced by supreme political power, Estonianness is internalized to its citizens leading to individuals that govern themselves (bio-power). Meanwhile, an unclear power structure creates all kinds of knowledge leading to a wide variety of discourses. This provides individuals, organizations, or populations with the bio-power to contest the supreme political power through all kinds of acts. According to Isin’s guideline for ‘writing the act’ has been used as an analytical tool to explore the openness of the Estonian internal border. The Estonian political elites have implemented all kinds of policies to internalize Estonianness and reduce Russianness discourse. Four arenas have been subjected to these policies of which two are comprehensively discussed in this thesis: labeling and education. These arenas have entered the field since major reforms in education have destabilized Russian as language of instruction. Meanwhile, labeling has become a platform of contestation because of the labels 'non-citizens’ and ‘aliens’ to describe the minority in Estonia. Describing ‘when’ these struggles seem to have started, which is a rather symbolic moment in time, has been further discussed. The ‘Bronze Night’ as this moment of resurrection (of the struggle between Estonianness and Russianness) has been called, became the actualization of the virtual event that has been going on since Estonia became an independent state. The analysis of the ‘Bronze Night’ was mainly based on Kaiser’s re-assemblage of the event. This thesis shows what changes in geography, history, and changing power relations have set the stage for further contestation of the internal border. A border, which arguably is defined along the line of Estonianness at one side and Russianness along the other side, has become a space of continual struggles. Is the internal border in Estonia such a simple representation of who is in and who is out? As this thesis has shown, it is anything but that simple. Based on news items, forums, videos and blogs, a series of ‘acts’ have been distinguished and described according to three central questions: Who?, What + How?, and Why? These acts have shown a multiplicity of discourses along several de-territorializing lines of flight. The data have also proved that there is no such thing as Russianness discourse, as there is also no Estonianness discourse (although state politics (Estonia and Russia) pretend there is such thing). In the arena of education has come forward that there are no two simplified representations of groups; one group that is pro language reforms and one group that is against these reforms. All kinds of what this thesis has called ‘hybrid forms’, border-as-horizons, ‘spaces of contestation’ or ‘spaces of the whe(a)rea’, can be distinguished, while none of these discourses excludes the other. All kinds of internalized power relations seek to contest (put into effect through ‘acts’) the normalization procedures of the ruling Estonian elites. At the same time, the arena of labeling has become more than a space of contestation for the ‘noncitizen’. It has become an arena of contestation between all kinds of internalized discourses that somehow seek to question the normalization of the internally drawn border based on duties and rights, and thus the legal status. All kinds of power structures, creating a multiplicity of discourses, have entered this particular field, which leads to all kinds of labeling acts, not only by the non-citizens. This makes labeling not exclusively an activity for those who are ‘in’, but also who are ‘out’: the openness of the border. Having made these observations, this thesis has shown that there is a political function in analyzing the openness of the border. Thus, rather than interpreting a border that demarcates citizenship, borders language, or delimits rights, borders are spaces that are open to a continual contestation between multiplicities of discourses. It offers a platform to become political, to act. Whether it is an act of citizenship seems at that point irrelevant. It is the governing of the self that is enabled through the openness of the borders; this is when people act.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen