Accepted Paper:

Newborn citizens in a post-Soviet landscape  

Author:

Florian Mühlfried (Ilia State University Georgia)

Paper short abstract:

How do memories of the programmatically anti-bourgeois Soviet state shape present-day notions and practices of citizenship? How do these notions and practices relate to contemporary political realities and social movements in other parts of the world? Addressing these questions, my paper investigates the cognitions and experiences of citizenship among the Tushetians, a transhumant ethnic group traditionally settled in the Georgian Highlands on the borderland to Chechnya and Dagestan. By analyzing cognitive data obtained from rankings and pile sortings concerning the meaning of places like schools, roads, churches, hospitals etc. for citizenship, I reflect on the way the state is inscribed in landscape.

Paper long abstract:

As in many other languages, the Georgian word for "citizenship" refers to the city as a place and to bourgeois values as the underlying class culture. What kind of meaning does it convey, then, to members of the Georgian nation state living in remote rural regions? How do memories of the programmatically anti-bourgeois Soviet state shape present-day notions and practices of citizenship? How do these notions and practices relate to contemporary political realities and social movements in other parts of the world?

Addressing these questions, my paper investigates the cognitions and experiences of citizenship among the Tushetians, a transhumant ethnic group traditionally settled in the Georgian Highlands on the borderland to Chechnya and Dagestan. By analyzing cognitive data obtained from rankings and pile sortings, I reflect on the way the state is inscribed in landscape. In a historical excursus, I address transmitted experiences of the state or proto-states during two periods: the feudal 18th century, and the Soviet 20th century. The Soviet period is evoked by the results of questionnaire interviews conducted during my fieldwork in 2007.

The findings point at transnational forms of citizenship and call for a nuanced and differentiated conceptualization of notions like state, nation, citizenship and their respective relations. They also question a myth reiterated by Western political scientists and Georgian social analysts alike, according to which the Georgians were alienated from the state for almost 200 years, due to Russian, later Soviet colonialism.

Panel W059
Experiencing borders and boundaries in the post-socialist Southeastern Europe (SEE)