Accepted Paper:

Between two culturally diverse countries: constructing the Georgian identity in the Israeli society  


Maya Melzer-Geva (Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines adaptation processes of the stigmatized immigrant Georgian community to the Israeli society. The ethno-historical research reveals, through focusing on a public museum exhibition, the construction of a past of tolerance and fraternity as part of a dynamics of struggling for recognition and mutuality in the present.

Paper long abstract:

The Georgian immigration suffered since the 1970's from marginalization, mainly through a negative public image created in the media and in everyday communication. This paper focuses on an exhibition held in a recognized public museum, in which a particular version of the community's history and culture was selected, and other versions silenced, in order to influence public opinion and improve the community's image. The exhibition was initiated by the intellectual elite of the Georgian community. The past was employed to present a collective identity and negotiate marginalization and exclusion, dent into the mainstream cultural monolithic center and promote mutual legitimation. The performance of the past was constructed according to interests at the present, and hopes and aspirations of an imagined future. Intra-communal processes of inquiring identity by memorizing vis-à-vis the exhibits is viewed as part of the dynamics. The exhibition served in the research as a micro-cultural symbolic arena for examining the actual interactions in the wider context, as well as a macro-cultural event while it was taking place and on a historic continuum of inter-cultural dynamics. I examine the unofficial motto of the exhibition: "There's no anti-Semitism in Georgia" - it's presented reasons and manifestations - as explained during and after the exhibition. The analysis will relate to overt and covert messages meant to design a "unique" profile: expressing a wish to belong and be respected by commemorating relations of amity in the past, and emphasizing European cultural influence in order to create a "non-Asiatic" identity.

Panel W110
Enacting pasts and futures: memory, identity and imagination