Accepted Paper:

A small empire of roads  


Salim Aykut Ozturk (University College London (UCL))

Paper short abstract:

Based on research on the 35+ hours long bus journeys between Armenia and Turkey via Georgia, this paper provides narratives of mobility in a zone of political fragmentation.

Paper long abstract:

The road between Armenia and Turkey is marked with paradoxical images for the first time traveler: closed borders and travelers of various sorts, surveillance and smuggling, political hostility and companionship among passengers. Buses transporting migrants, shuttle-traders and tourists between the two neighbouring countries have to take a long detour via Georgia - which has emerged as a 'crossroad' in a region of 'frozen and forgotten conflicts' (Gerald 2011) with autonomous regions, de facto independent states and invaded territories. Especially for passengers from Armenia, their northern neighbour is often the only possible place to reach out the wider world. On the 35+ hours detoured bus journeys en route Turkey via Georgia, Armenian passengers deal with multiplicity of nation-states and their legal frameworks of migration, as well as tangible and imagined borders between them. Based on research among Armenian travelers (in the widest sense of the term) en route Turkey, this paper examines the various ways through which political fragmentation produces a particular regime of mobility at particular crossroads. It also suggests to look at this particular regime of mobility within the fragmented political landscape of the South Caucasus through an analysis of people who have different experiences of these border crossings and zones as dwellers-in-traveling (i.e. shuttle-traders and bus crews) and travelers-in-dwelling (i.e. inhabitants of border towns) (a la Clifford 1997).

Panel RM-CPV06
The roads most travelled: ethnographic approaches to buffer zones, crossroads and spaces in-between