Caucasus, Conflict, Culture 2
Transgressing Conflicts from Below:
Interethnic Contacts in Border Villages in the Southern Caucasus
Research Project for Students
Akhaltsikhe, 18.08.2012 – 01.09.2012
Borders are institutions of inter-state divisions. In the Caucasus, they are until today highly contested. These borders play an important role in the nationalist agendas of the South Caucasian countries as excluding and insurmountable barriers in the local landscapes. At a closer look at the border regions, however, the situation is quite different. Bordes villages on both sides maintain intensive contacts and more often than not find a modus operandi in economic and social relations even in areas of latent conflict.
The aims of this research project for students was – first – to study these relationships that are transgressing borders and facilitate interethnic contacts between border villages in the conflict-torn social landscape of the Southern Caucasus. By focusing on transborder contacts, a topic closely related to the conflicts in the region, we wanted to enter into a discussion about the political and historical formation of current conflicts by focusing on specific empirical phenomena that transgress conflicts from below.
Secondly, the reflection of the research process itself was a central element of our project. There were joint preparations, joint research and joint analyses of their projects by the multinational student groups. Through the experience of in-group dis-cussions among participants with different citizenships, perspectives and possibly different interpretations of the research data, the students did reflect on these differences, on the limitations of the own interpretative frames and the possible explanatory power of alternative interpretations.
In November 2011 we organised a first symposium on the importance of an anthropological perspective in order to understand conflicts and its prevention (CCC1). With this project we wanted to focus more concretely on anthropological research on the ground. Our positive experience from the collaboration with the Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian student groups has led us to design a research project especially for them. 20 students from the three South Caucasus states and Germany were trained in local ethnography, anthropological methodology and in planning a research project which then was implemented, evaluated and discussed. Three student research teams did study in border regions of the South Caucasus how borders influence human behaviour and how people adapt to borders and even manipulate them.