The 2021 ARISC Spring Lecture Series showcases the work of early-career postdoctoral scholars. This year’s series includes specialists from the disciplines of ethnography, soil science, and history. The lectures are free and open to students and scholars of the region along with ARISC donors, those interested in the cultures of the South Caucasus, and the general public.
April 16, 2021 at 11am EDT
Borderization from the Frontlines: Uncertainty and Abandonment in the Space Between War and Peace
Dr. Ariel Otruba, Sociology and Anthropology Department, Moravian College
The August 2008 Russo-Georgian war represents the first time the Ossetian and Abkhazian administrative boundaries were experienced as international borders. The unilateral demarcation of these territories by Russian forces, a process euphemistically called “borderization,” led to restricted freedom of movement, compromised livelihoods, demographic declines, widespread trauma, barriers to important social practices, and a growing mistrust for borderland communities. Multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork also shows how feelings of abandonment are among the chief complaints reported by villagers living on the frontlines of borderization. This presentation considers the precarious conditions of “conflict-affected” communities, who are trapped between opposing security regimes in a space defined by the ambiguity between war the precarious conditions of “conflict-affected” communities and peace, past and future, hope and desolation. Emphasizing the emotional and material conditions of protracted uncertainty exposes the forces of social dislocation and how the future has become one of the major casualties of the conflict.
April 20, 2021 at 12pm EDT
Infrared Spectroscopy, a Tool for Rapid Land Degradation Assessment
Dr. Scott Demyan, School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University
Soil health and preventing and reversing soil degradation are not only important for food security, but also to ensure that important soil ecosystem services such as carbon storage and water quality are maintained. Management of soil resources requires high quality soils data. This talk broadly will examine the use and potential of infrared spectroscopy for rapid assessment of soil properties and soil health and to test the applicability of visible- near-infrared spectroscopy in complimenting traditional lab measurements for the rapid assessment of soil degradation. A case study from Armenia across contrasting agroecological zones from semi-desert to high-mountain grasslands will be presented.
April 28, 2021 at 12pm EDT
Colonial Governance, Educational Reform, and the Architecture of Identity Among Nineteenth-Century Azerbaijani Muslims
Dr. Aimee Dobbs, The American Research Institute of the South Caucasus
Colonial governance, educational reform, and identity politics shared center stage in post-Crimean War-era South Caucasus (SC). The region’s remarkably intertwined ethnicities, as well as its geopolitical position, obliged Russian state administrators to consider novel approaches to systems’ modernization, particularly regarding the creation of a comprehensive schooling system. Linguistic and cultural considerations, geopolitics, and resource insufficiencies created opportunities and institutions for South Caucasians to partake in educational reform, primarily on imperial terms. For Azerbaijani Muslims, inclusion was a belated and yet transformative step towards joining the “imperial domain.” As some Azerbaijani Muslims began to advocate for educational, social, and cultural reform, the Russian state became a tenuous and coincidental partner. While discursive and institutional spaces offered platforms for voicing concerns and exercising leadership among Azerbaijani Muslims in the newly emerging political rationalities, identity politics in urban centers materialized against a backdrop of fast and uneven market growth, particularly in Baku. The combination of these forces eroded conventional social structures and created spaces for new authorities and sociopolitical institutions that laid the foundations of an identity more associated with ethnicity than religion.
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