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Accepted Paper:

Ancestors out of place: The undoing of good afterlives in occupied South Ossetia  
Katrine Gotfredsen (Malmö University)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper explores how Russian occupation of South Ossetia disrupts local practices related to death and the afterlife. I show that the undoing of social and spatial links between the living and the dead threatens social continuity, but also how it fosters resistance and attempts at re-making it.

Paper Abstract:

This paper explores how the Russian occupation of the Georgian territory of South Ossetia disrupts local practices pertaining to death, burial and good afterlives.

The 2008 Russo-Georgian war and its aftermath caused the long-term displacement of thousands of ethnic Georgians from South Ossetia as well as highly precarious living conditions in the borderlands between Russian and Georgian controlled areas. Over the past decade, the construction of a hard, militarised “border” between the territories restricts movement and hinders displaced families and local village communities from accessing native places and people. This is not only so in terms of the concrete territories and contemporaries of “this world”, but also pertains to the territories and beings in “the other world”.

The paper will show how Russian rule is undoing the social and spatial connections between the world of the living and the world of the dead, by leaving ancestors and dead kin uncomfortably out of place: Families are prevented from visiting family graves, pay their respect, and fulfil obligations to their deceased kin. The dead must be buried in the wrong soil away from where they would naturally belong. Close relatives are prevented from reunification in the afterlife, etc.

By preventing proper relations between the world of the living and the world of the dead, the dominance exercised by occupation extends itself to the afterlife and threatens to undo senses of social continuity. However, it also fosters resistance and creative attempts at re-making it.

Panel P107
Doing and undoing kinship under military occupation
  Session 2 Tuesday 23 July, 2024, -