Maria Mayerchyk (University of Greifswald (Germany) & Ethnology Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine)
In the preindustrial Ukrainian village, there was a tradition of young people of marriageable age spending the night together. Even though nineteenth-century scholars studied the live tradition almost simultaneously and mainly in the same regions, they provided very different accounts of it. While some saw it as decent entertainment for youth, others pointed to the more intimate or even sexual nature of young people’s relations. Drawing on the Foucauldian idea of discourse as power and queer theoretical framework on sexuality, the research explores knowledge production on the tradition of young people spending the night together (also known as prytula). The presentation will reveal how the modern concept of sexuality informed scholars’ perspectives on the tradition and how their discursive positionality defined their understanding of what they witnessed. Three main discursive perspectives will be identified and scrutinized: national romantic, radical, and feminist approaches. Finally, a queer theoretical perspective on the tradition, which destabilizes the very idea of sex, will be introduced.