"Prostitutes" and "Defectors": How the Ukrainian State Constructs Women Emigrants to Italy and the USA
Scholars of sending countries emphasise the role of economics in shaping state policies towards emigration. They argue sending states are converging around a set of discursive strategies that aim to facilitate the influx of remittances from emigrants. One such strategy uses discourses of cultural nationalism to celebrate emigrants as ‘heroes’ of the nation. Drawing on a state sponsored media campaign and ethnographic data, I found the Ukrainian state does the opposite. It stigmatises its emigrants to both Italy and the USA as ‘prostitutes’ and ‘defectors’ respectively. However emigrants are differentially stigmatised. Emigrants to the USA are simply dismissed, but the Ukrainian state constructs migration to Italy as a shameful social problem. It does this even though emigrants to Italy send back significantly more remittances. Economic interests cannot explain Ukrainian state practices towards emigration. Instead, in the context of post-Soviet transformation, I suggest the Ukrainian state has prioritised the construction of a national identity. The state then constructs policy with an eye to cultural rather than economic outcomes. I argue the Ukrainian state actively stigmatises the migration to Italy because it poses challenges to the nation-building process, whereas the migration to the USA is peripheral to this key state concern.