WiP: Georgian and Abkhazian Victimization Narratives

CRRC, ARISC and American Councils are proud to present the 8th talk of the Fall 2019 Works-in-Progress Series!

“Place and Space in Georgian and Abkhazian Victimization Narratives”

By Guranda Bursulaia, Free University of Tbilisi

Date: December 11, 2019, at 18:30 pm
Venue: CRRC Georgia, 1 Liziko Kavtaradze st., 0179 Tbilisi, Georgia

In post-conflict communities, dominant narratives are often constructed around self-victimization, and school textbooks are important in shaping and transmitting such traumatization narratives. This article discusses the Georgian and Abkhazian victimization discourses presented in history textbooks, and examines the process of nation building through conceptualizing notions of space and place. By instilling the idea of “the home” and nostalgia, in parallel to the work that war monuments and commemoration rituals carry out in public space, textbooks depict the disputed territory as a “promised land.” I make use of qualitative methodology to conduct textual analysis of four Georgian and Abkhazian school history textbooks published between 1993 to 2018, concentrating on the chapters relating to the 1992-93 war in Abkhazia, and conducted structured and semi-structured interviews with pupils, teachers and textbook authors in Tbilisi, as well as participant observation in four schools in Tbilisi. Based on the outcome of this research and the subsequent analysis, using the conceptual framework of victimization I propose three elements in the construction of the concept of “the home”: micro-geography, sacralization of the place, and mundane practices. This research contributes to the ongoing discussion about land memory and lieux de memoire and about the relationship of the individual to collective and official memory, and it explores the influence of such memories on the national curricula.

Guranda Bursulaia is a PhD student at Free University of Tbilisi. Her research areas are collective memory, textbook-related research, cultural and social anthropology, Caucasus studies, conflict-sensitive history education, nationalism studies. As a visiting scholar (financed by the Swedish Institute) she spent 2018-2019 academic year at RUCARR (Russia and Caucasus Regional Research) at Malmo University, Sweden.

Guranda is a peace and confidence building project coordinator at Charity Humanitarian Center Abkhazeti (CHCA). The project is about empowering conflict-affected and economically vulnerable young women in entrepreneurship through handicraft trainings.

Since 2013, Ms. Bursulaia has been working as a non-formal educator and peacebuilding facilitator on local, regional and international levels. She has organized numerous inner and intra-society dialogues, workshops, trainings using methods such as simulation games, forum theatres and so on. Since 2015 she is a Peace and Conflict Consultant, an initiative implemented by German organization CRISP (Crisis Simulation for Peace).

W-i-P is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that takes place at the CRRC office at 5 Chkhikvadze Str. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public. The purpose of the W-i-P series is to provide support and productive criticism to those researching and developing academic projects pertaining the Caucasus region.

PRIVACY POLICY: In order to assure the free and open discussion of ideas and sensitive issues, unless otherwise specified the WiP series holds to the Chatham House Rule: participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed, without the explicit permission of said speaker(s) or participant(s) in the press or other public media. Journalists may attend the sessions, but the contents are not for publication or broadcast without the explicit permission of the speaker(s). This is to enable all involved to openly discuss their views in private while allowing the topic and nature of the debate to be made public and contribute to the broader scholarly and academic conversation.