Multispecies ruptures
: stories of displacement and human-plant relations from Donbas, Ukraine

  • Darya Tsymbalyuk

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis explores narratives of displacement from Donbas, Ukraine as a series of multispecies ruptures. Focusing on human-plant relations in oral histories of internally displaced persons (IDPs), it foregrounds more-than-human aspects of migration. Engaging with theories in environmental humanities, the thesis examines them through a decolonial lens. Critical of tendencies to orientalise Eastern Europe and post-Soviet countries as spaces of ecological disasters, with Chornobyl being one of the most famous examples, this dissertation avoids fixating on the catastrophic by focusing on everyday (re)configurations of ruptured multispecies relations instead. Donbas is a (post)industrial region in the east of Ukraine, where a war broke out in 2014. Soviet industrialism and ongoing conflict resulted in extractivist treatment of Donbas and its human and more-than-human inhabitants. Closely examining legacies and repercussions of these violences, the thesis traces accounts alternative to the dominant representations of war, industrialisation and displacement. These accounts resist fossilfuelisation, a process of being turned into a resource by the industry or the war-machine. Stories analysed in this thesis subvert objectification by treating the Other, whether human or more-than-human, with care and attention. For example, the thesis looks at personal stories of engaging with coal and fossils, as well as at testimonies of moving plants from the conflict zone, or memories of encountering overgrown gardens and wilted houseplants in homes abandoned because of the war. The form of the dissertation, consisting of academic writing, drawings, and a screenplay, presents a decolonial approach to knowledge-making. The thesis presents a more ethical way of engaging with research, where the outcomes are disseminated in different languages (English, Ukrainian; visual, academic) and to different audiences (academic, non-academic), thereby destabilising hierarchies of knowledge production.
Date of Award17 Jun 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorVictoria Sophie Donovan (Supervisor) & Jeffrey Stevenson Murer (Supervisor)

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  • Full text embargoed until
  • 15 December 2026

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