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Boundaries of displacement: Belonging and Return among Forcibly Displaced Young Georgians from Abkhazia
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Social Sciences. (RCR)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7512-9066
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation explores the implications of borders and boundaries for how forcibly displaced young Georgians from Abkhazia understand issues of belonging and return. My theoretical framework draws from theories on home and belonging as well as theories on border and boundary making, and locates them in geographies of uncertainty – or riskscapes – areas characterized by conflict and/or inequality. Empirical data was collected through two sets of interviews in Zugdidi near the border to Abkhazia and a questionnaire survey in Zugdidi and the capital Tbilisi. These data have been analysed through both qualitative and quantitative methods.

 

The young respondents providing material for this research do not constitute a homogenous group. Some of the respondents have family still living in Abkhazia or even partly grew up in the area; others have never been there. The primary goal of the Georgian government has been that the displaced population should return to their homes, and the government’s efforts for local integration has long been insufficient. Since no peace accords have been signed, a lack of security prevents a large-scale return. Notwithstanding increased border controls that have made it difficult to visit former homes, some young people still cross the de facto border. By doing this they contest both the Abkhazian de facto authorities and the border as a symbol of separation and differentiation, while claiming a right to belong in Abkhazia. Property and social relations in Abkhazia contribute to stronger connections and an imperative to return. On the other hand, experience of hardship in contemporary Abkhazia has resulted in some young people not considering return as a viable option. Youth who never visited Abkhazia depend mainly on other peoples’ memories and political discourse to create emotional bonds to the area their parents fled and to form their ideas of return. Results from the quantitative survey indicate that youth living in Tbilisi, closer to the political centre, to a higher extent intend to return than their peers in Zugdidi. Meanwhile young people’s experiences of everyday life in current dwellings in relative stability create emotional bonds to their present place of living. These experiences challenge both collective processes and experiences from Abkhazia when it comes to maintaining the desire to return.

 

This research offers insights into the human consequences of war and conflict. More specifically, this dissertation sheds light on how young internally displaced persons (IDPs) are living in a borderland (in both temporal and spatial terms) characterized by uncertainty-- between the past and the future as well as between Georgia and Abkhazia. Practices of exclusion and segregation are constitutive of the borders and boundaries that permeate life experiences of the forcibly displaced youth. Furthermore, these borders and boundaries are situated in riskscapes of disputed belongings, which makes this borderland more or less stable for different groups of IDPs. This dissertation contributes to an increased understanding of how political aspirations and personal desire to return preserves instability and uncertainty as long as return is not possible. 

Abstract [sv]

Denna avhandling undersöker konsekvenserna av gränser och gränsskapande för hur unga georgiska internflyktingar från Abkhazien förstår frågor om tillhörighet och återvändande. Jag utgår från teorier om hem och tillhörighet, liksom teorier om gränser och gränsskapande, och lokaliserar dem till geografier av osäkerhet – “riskscapes” – områden som karaktäriseras av konflikter och/eller ojämlikheter. Det datamaterial som ligger till grund för avhandlingen utgörs av två intervjustudier i Zugdidi nära gränsen till Abkhazien; och en enkätstudie som genomfördes i Zugdidi och i den georgiska huvudstaden Tbilisi. Materialet har analyserats genom användande av både kvalitativa och kvantitativa metoder.

 

Avhandlingens respondenter utgör inte en homogen grupp. Några respondenter har familj och släktingar som bor i Abkhazien eller har delvis växt upp i området, medan andra aldrig ens varit där. Det primära målet för den georgiska regeringen har varit att internflyktingarna ska återvända till sina hem, och regeringens ansträngningar för integration i lokalsamhället har länge varit otillräckliga. Det saknas fredsavtal och bristen på säkerhet förhindrar återvändande i stor skala. Trots de ökade gränskontroller som gjort det svårt att korsa de facto gränslinjen tar sig en del ungdomar ändå over gränsen. Genom att göra detta bestrider de både de abkhaziska de facto myndigheterna och gränsen som symbol för separation och åtskillnad, medan de hävdar sin rätt att känna tillhörighet till Abkhazien. Att ha ett hus och sociala relationer i Abkhazien bidrar till emotionella band och en starkare uppmaning till att återvända. Å andra sidan kan erfarenheterna av vardagens umbäranden inne i Abkhazien resultera i att unga människor inte ser återvändande som ett tänkbart alternativ. Ungdomar som aldrig varit i Abkhazien är beroende av andra människors minnen och politiska diskurser för att skapa känslomässiga band och tankar om återvändande till det område deras föräldrar har flytt från. Resultat från den kvantitativa undersökningen visar vidare att ungdomar som bor i Tbilisi, närmare Georgiens politiska centrum, i högre grad anger att de har för avsikt att återvända än deras jämnåriga i Tbilisi. Ungdomars erfarenheter av vardagslivet i sina nuvarande bostäder i relativ stabilitet bidrar emellertid till att skapa känslomässiga band till den aktuella bostadsorten. Dessa erfarenheter utmanar på så vis både de kollektiva processerna och erfarenheter från Abkhazien när det gäller att upprätthålla drömmen om återvändande.

 

Avhandlingen bidrar med insikter om konsekvenser av krig och konflikter för människors vardagsliv. Mer specifikt belyser jag hur avhandlingens unga respondenter lever i en sorts rumsligt och temporalt gränsland mellan det förflutna och framtiden och mellan Georgien och Abkhazien, och detta gränsland kännetecknas av osäkerhet. Praktiker av isärhållande och segregering är konstituerande för de gränser som genomsyrar internflyktingungdomarnas erfarenheter. Dessa gränser är dessutom situerade i ”riskscapes” av ifrågasatta tillhörigheter, som gör gränslandet mer eller mindre stabilt för olika grupper av internflyktingar. Avhandlingen bidrar med en ökad förståelse för hur politiska ambitioner och personliga drömmar om återvändande håller kvar människor i instabilitet och osäkerhet så länge återvändandet inte är möjligt. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Östersund: Mittuniversitetet , 2016. , 93 p.
Series
Mid Sweden University doctoral thesis, ISSN 1652-893X ; 250
Keyword [en]
Georgia, Abkhazia, Caucasus, IDP, internal displacement, return, forced displacement, youth, border, riskscapes, uncertainty
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-28661ISBN: 978-91-88025-80-7OAI: oai:DiVA.org:miun-28661DiVA: diva2:957174
Public defence
2016-09-30, F229, Kunskapens väg 8, Östersund, 10:30 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

Vid tidpunkten för disputationen var följande delarbeten opublicerade: delarbete 3 inskickat.

At the time of the doctoral defence the following papers were unpublished: paper 3 submitted.

Available from: 2016-09-01 Created: 2016-09-01 Last updated: 2016-09-19Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Crossing the border: An intergenerational study on belonging and temporary return among IDPs from Abkhazia
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Crossing the border: An intergenerational study on belonging and temporary return among IDPs from Abkhazia
2015 (English)In: Security, Democracy and Development in the Southern Caucasus and the Black Sea Region / [ed] Nodia, Ghia; Stefes, Christoph H., Bern, Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 2015, 229-248 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

More than 250 000 people are displaced within the borders of Georgia today. The majority of the displaced fled the armed ethnic conflicts in Abkhazia in the 1990s. The administrative boundary line between Georgia and Abkhazia has, in effect, turned into a de facto state border but Georgians displaced from Abkhazia have continued to cross the boundary to enter Abkhazia for longer or shorter durations. This study addresses the motives for crossing the boundary and its significance for how people understand their belonging.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bern, Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 2015
Series
, Interdisciplinary Studies on Central and Eastern Europe, ISSN 1661-1349 ; 14
Keyword
Georgia, Abkhazia, Caucasus, return, home, internal displacement
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-26587 (URN)10.3726/978-3-0351-0836-1 (DOI)2-s2.0-84967048421 (ScopusID)978-3-0343-1300-1 (ISBN)
Available from: 2015-12-17 Created: 2015-12-17 Last updated: 2016-09-01Bibliographically approved
2. Avlägsen tillhörighet: Om skapande och upprätthållande av platstillhörighet bland georgiska internflyktingar från Abkhazien: Distant belongings: On the maintaining and creation of place attachment among Georgian IDPs from Abkhazia
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Avlägsen tillhörighet: Om skapande och upprätthållande av platstillhörighet bland georgiska internflyktingar från Abkhazien: Distant belongings: On the maintaining and creation of place attachment among Georgian IDPs from Abkhazia
2014 (Swedish)In: Nordisk Østforum, ISSN 0801-7220, E-ISSN 1891-1773, Vol. 28, no 3, 215-237 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Today nearly 250 000 people are displaced within Georgia as a result of armed ethnic conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the 1990s and the Georgian-Russian war in 2008. During the time in displacement bonds to places of temporary living are created and new generations are born. At least one fifth of the internally displaced in Georgia are children and adolescents below 18 years of age. Many of them have never seen the homes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia where they are expected, by their parents and by the Georgian government, to return to if circumstances for return are created. The purpose of this article is to explore attitudes on belonging among Georgian IDP youth and their parents. How is attachment to a »native home» created and maintained over a protracted period of time when this place in general is inaccessible? The study of intergenerational value discrepancies among IDPs in Georgia is based on individual and group interviews with parents (n=19) and adolescents (n=39) living in the region bordering Abkhazia, conducted in February 2012. Research on migrants is generally based on segregated age groups; with its intergenerational scope, this study is therefore an important contribution to research on forcibly displaced populations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oslo: , 2014
Keyword
internal displacement, Georgia, Abkhazia, belonging, youth, generation
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-23122 (URN)
Available from: 2014-10-06 Created: 2014-10-06 Last updated: 2016-09-01Bibliographically approved
3. Riskscapes: Strategies and practices along the Georgian-Abkhazian boundary line and inside Abkhazia
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Riskscapes: Strategies and practices along the Georgian-Abkhazian boundary line and inside Abkhazia
(English)Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-28667 (URN)
External cooperation:
Available from: 2016-09-01 Created: 2016-09-01 Last updated: 2016-09-01Bibliographically approved
4. Place matters: return intentions among forcibly displaced young Georgians from Abkhazia living in Tbilisi and Zugdidi
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Place matters: return intentions among forcibly displaced young Georgians from Abkhazia living in Tbilisi and Zugdidi
2016 (English)In: Caucasus survey, ISSN 2376-1199, E-ISSN 2376-1202, Vol. 4, no 2, 129-148 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Around 250,000 people are internally displaced within Georgia today as a consequence of violent conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the early 1990s and the Georgian-Russian war in 2008. The majority of the internally displaced persons originate from Abkhazia, which declared independence in 1999. While the conflict is still unresolved, the majority of those who fled remain displaced, most of them living in the vicinity of the capital Tbilisi, or in Zugdidi and the Samegrelo region bordering Abkhazia. The aim of this article is to study actors that impact on young people’s intentions to return to Abkhazia, with a focus on youth presently living in the Tbilisi and Zugdidi areas. The study is based on a quantitative survey (n = 131) with youth aged 18–25 years, who were displaced when very young, or who were born in displacement, have few or no memories of prior residences, and may have different opinions on returning from their parents. A chi-square analysis was used to measure differences among the respondents’ intentions to return permanently to Abkhazia within five years, in relation to their reasons for returning and factors in the past and the present. There was a significant association between return intentions and the current place of residence (Tbilisi or Zugdidi), with Tbilisi respondents more inclined towards return. Separate chi-square analyses for the two cities showed that different factors (birthplace, property in Abkhazia, socio-economic conditions, reasons for return and so on) have different impact on the return intentions of the respondents from the two cities, which allows us to conclude that place matters in thinking about post-conflict return trajectories.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2016
Keyword
Return, Georgia, Abkhazia, IDP, Youth, Forced Displacement, Tbilisi, Zugdidi
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-27366 (URN)10.1080/23761199.2016.1162569 (DOI)
Available from: 2016-04-09 Created: 2016-04-09 Last updated: 2016-09-23Bibliographically approved

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