Alexandra Hrycak

Professor of Sociology, Reed College

When did you first develop an interest in Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies?

As a child, I attended a community Ukrainian school every Saturday, where I was introduced to Shevchenko and other Ukrainian authors by phenomenal teachers who brought literature alive for me. I later discovered an interest in Slavic and East European studies more broadly as a mathematics major at Rutgers University, where I took a year-long Russian literature class taught by the late John Fizer, a professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and of Comparative Literature. While I had already been exposed to Ukrainian classics, Prof. Fizer  introduced me to fresh perspectives on Gogol, Bulgakov and other writers and sparked my interest in Slavic and East European literatures. Soon after I enrolled in graduate school in Sociology in 1988, new movements began emerging to challenge the Soviet state’s authoritarian legacies. I found myself still more interested in the field of East European Studies, as new interdisciplinary scholarship arose that engaged critically with the contemporary forms of activism that were-emerging in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union at that time. At the completion of my coursework, I applied for fellowships to study national identity-based activism in Soviet Ukraine, which declared independence several weeks later. My interest in the field of East European studies was sustained by my subsequent field work examining how Ukrainians were engaging with their past and formulating alternative visions of their future.  

How have your interests changed since then?

My current research project explores how women in Ukraine are working today to prevent violence in Ukraine. During my dissertation research, I was struck by the complex gender dynamics within Ukrainian civil society. After I defended my dissertation and was hired at Reed College, I began making plans to study women’s activism. At that time, aid providers were encouraging women’s activism around issues such as domestic violence and trafficking, which had already emerged as central targets of global women’s activism. As a result of these external forces,  the women activists I studied were grappling with these issues, as well as the legacies of Soviet state sponsored violence. 

What is your current research project?

I am currently writing a book about women’s activism in response to violence in Ukraine.

What do you value about your ASEEES membership?

I value the intellectual community that I find through the association, particularly at the annual convention. In my discipline – Sociology – there are many scholars interested in women’s activism but few who study it in the post-Soviet context. I find at ASEEES conferences that I don’t need to spend nearly as much time explaining the broader context for my research and can explore the research itself.

Besides your professional work, what other interests and/or hobbies do you enjoy?

I am an avid cyclist. Living in Portland, Oregon, I am lucky to be able to use my bicycle as my primary means of transportation. I also enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities.