Photos by © Maysun Abu-Khdeir
Currently viewing slideshow. View photo gallery.
Authors: Dr. Alexander L. Fattal, Maysun Abu-Khdeir • Resource type: Art
Maysun Abu-Khdeir’s photographs of the crisis in eastern Ukraine move across borders that themselves are in flux. The Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014 was paradigmatic of a new form of warfare that hybridizes inter-state conflict and guerrilla conflict. In this new permutation, actors and methods are strategically muddled. From the invasion of Crimea to its aftermath, Abu Khdeir’s images track the tensions of ethnicity and nationalism across an unstable regional environment that continues to boil with a war that has displaced thousands and defied efforts to broker a settlement. The images themselves achieve a synthesis between dynamic flare ups and a tense calm that is apropos of the shifting conflict that she has documented. What Abu-Khdeir has documented is a dialectics of politics as war by other means, and its inverse: war as politics by other means.
Her photo-essay raises more questions than answers, but that is largely because so have the unfolding events that began with soldiers who arrived in insignialess uniforms. Their menacing presence poignantly reminded Crimea’s residents that although the Cold War formally ended less than thirty years ago, the borders drawn after the dissolution of the Soviet Union are not entirely settled, and territories are still subject to forceful annexation. Russian’s usage of force followed by a referendum to legitimize its invasion of Crimean in 2014 offered a glimpse of the combination of cunning and brutality it would show in 2016 as it set out to influence western electoral processes and prop up the Assad regime in Syria.
Will future historians look back at the capture of Crimea as a resurgent Russia’s first move? Will the conflict along the borderlands of Ukraine spread into other former Soviet satellite states? How might such unrest meld with growing polarization in the region and the world? The stakes are large and Abu-Khdeir’s photo-essay is a moving reminder that understanding the changing character of war is an intellectual imperative.
— Alexander L. Fattal
Assistant Professor University of California, San Diego
Copyright information: Photos are copyright © Maysun Abu-Khdeir