After nearly three months in Germany, Natia and Lavrenti are going today back to Tbilisi. We spent here some intensive months in discussing about the results of our research and working one main article and a book that will bring together all individual research projects under one conceptual framework. Hopefully, at least … During the stay of our Georgian colleagues we also did prepare our concluding conference “Perceptions of the State and Legal Practice in the Caucasus Anthropological Perspectives on Law and Politics”. It will take place in Batumi between November, 14-18. We will publish here some first information in the next days. Save ride home, Natia and Lavrenti.
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Second and last day in Istanbul. Tomorrow we will leave to the East. Elke and I, we did some sightseeing. Each of us did their individual Istanbul ‘tour de force’. There was not much time. Definitely a city to come back.
On September 26 we were back in Marburg after three extraordinary months in Georgia. We have to thank our Georgian colleagues Natia and Lavrenti for making our journey so pleasant. In the next six months we will work on our material. But we also have lectures (in German “Seminare”) to prepare for he winter term.
My French colleague Bernard Poulelaouen (he would say that he is Breton, not French …) and I, we give a seminar on “Musical anthropology in the Republic of Georgia”. Bernard is the director of the Centre du Patrimoine de la Facture Instrumentale (CPFI) in Le Mans (France). Since a couple of years he is living in Marburg and gives lectures on musical anthropology and identity, mainly on the Baltic regions and in Hungary. Because of my ongoing project in Georgia we planned to work together on traditional music in Georgia. In a two semester seminar we will give an introduction into Georgian traditional music and its contemporary relevance (first and second year students). A highlight of the seminar will be a ten days excursion of the participants to Tbilisi next April. There we will work together with the International Research Center for Traditional Polyphony of Tbilisi State Conservatory.
Open Anthropology Cooperative (OAC) is a rapidly growing discussion forum and social network for anthropologists. Florian Mühlfried, who researched in Georgia on topics like the “supra” or on citizenship, founded the Group “Anthropology in/of the Caucasus” in AOC. Already about 35 members signed in the group. Researchers from Georgia and anthropologists working on Georgia seem to be in majority in this moment. But as AOC is expanding fast this may change in the future. One my ask why a sheep was chosen as symbol for this group (my first association was that this a group on the Anthropology of Ireland). This is one of the topics discussed in the forum.
Next week we (Elke and Stéphane) will be in Georgia. That remembers me of the beginnings of the project. In October 2004 I was for the first time in Tbilisi to discuss the first ideas of the research project with Lia Melikishvili and Natia Jalabadze. Natia is now a team member of our project. As already mentioned below, our projected written and re-written for four years and presented to different institutions before it was finally approved. Ulrike Krasberg (“Privatdozent” at the Philipps-University and editor of the online magazine Journal-Ethnologie) took part in the preparation trip in 2004.
The subject of the research project is to analyse the resurrection of traditional law in Georgia. What are the processes and basic conditions that lead to a revitalisation of traditional forms of law? Why, when and by whom is traditional law practiced? Is the current practice of traditional law a postsocialist development or was it always present, but simply hard to observe because of the powerful socialist state ideology?
In Georgia, an increasing resurrection of aspects of traditional law becomes apparent. For example, observes may note the importance of conceptions of honour and clan relations in economic activities, the reappearance of blood feud, the reconception of property relations from a traditional legal perspective and the importance of extra court conflict resolutions through procedures of traditional law by elders and mediators.
Traditional law is not only a phenomenon in the remote highlands of Svaneti and Khevsureti, where its practice was mainly studied. Traditional law is also strong in the lowlands around the large Georgian cities, where its practices are only rarely described. The research project has as target regions Kvemo Kartli, Imeretia and/or Kachetia.
The frame of research encompasses four individual projects, referring to traditional law in socialism, blood feud in the lowlands, the enhancement of traditional law through NGOs and the relevance of honour conceptions. By means of this thematic selection we will exemplarily analyse the practice of traditional law, including the following general questions.
- What is considered as traditional law? The task here is to delimit the object of investigation. What does the local population mean when it refers to traditional law? Is there an idea about traditional law as a coherent ensemble? How does traditional law become manifest? It also has to be analysed how supra local actors, like state administration or civil society, define traditional law and if there are possible differences to local definitions.
- Does traditional law have a historical continuity or is it a recent creation? It has to be investigated if traditional law was also in force in the period of socialism. If this was the case – and the abovementioned literature supports this assumption – how and in which circumstances was traditional law practiced? What were the basic conditions that made persistence of traditional law in socialist times and beyond possible?
- In which social circumstances can traditional law be observed? Traditional law may be the sole legal frame of reference in a specific domain, such as in property relations. In others domains it may not be used at all or only be one legal resource among others (legal pluralism). The question is in which domains traditional law is how used and why it might not be an option in other fields?
- Who are the actors and what are the places and motivations for using traditional law? It is referred here to the analysis of the power relations behind the practice of traditional law. Who are the central figures of traditional law and how did they obtained this status? Who controls the knowledge of traditional law? How, when, by whom to whom is knowledge about traditional law is transmitted? Why is traditional law used (to accentuate local identity, as a political message against the state, as a useful tool to better achieve personal goals)?
- How does the state and its administration reacts to the practice of traditional law? What is the general position of the state and its administration towards the present-day existence of traditional law? Does the state administration and civil society actively suppress the practice of traditional law and by which means does this happen? Are there attempts from the side of the state or the civil society (e.g. NGOs working in conflict mediation) to incorporate parts of traditional law in state legislation?
- What is the position of religion and its representatives in the practice of traditional law? It has to be investigated regardless of the missing links between religion and traditional law in the existing literature if there are interrelations between Georgian orthodoxy and the local practice of traditional law. Are church representatives taking part in conflict mediation? What is the position and reaction in relation to the use of traditional law?
The applicants of the research project were Mark Münzel (former professort and leader of the Section of Anthropolgy at the University or Marburg and Stéphane Voell)
Since the 21st of February the Georgian team member Natia Jalabadze and Lavrenti Janiashvili are in Marburg. During their three weeks stay in Germany we discuss the main research questions and the methodology. We presented ourselves our individual research projects. Large parts of our meetings are devoted to questions of organisation in regard to our joint research in Georgia from July until September. The main topics we talk are the area of research and the form collaboration of team members in the field.
The research project is directed by Mark Münzel and myself. It is attached to the department of ethnology of the Institute for Comparative Cultural Research of the Philipps-University in Marburg, Germany. The small department of ethnology is located in the “Kugelhaus”, a 16th century building in the old, upper part of town. Münzel was the director of the department. Since October 2008 it is lead by Ernst Halbmayer. The department is specialized on Latin America. But we hope that our colleagues will learn from us that there is a world beyond Indians in Malokas …
July, 8 2008. The Volkswagen Foundation gave us a sign, that our research project “The Revitalisation of Traditional Law in the Republic of Georgia” might well be approved. We were all very enthusiastic about the good news. For years I was planning this research project. At the moment I did send the last version to the foundation in January 2008 I really did not expect that the application might be successful. I did not think, that my project was bad. But since 2003 I was working on different versions that I presented at various institutions, but without much success.
The foundation asked us to react adequately on the critical statements of the three anonymous referees. We send our reply in early August. The war in Georgia began on the 8th of August. Friends and colleagues called me asking about the situation in Georgia (I did not know how the situation was!) and were convinced that the project will be cancelled.
I have to excuse me, I indeed had some selfish thoughts. I hoped the crisis was stopping rapidly to not endanger the project. Only when I heard of the Georgian team member of our research project, Natia Jalabadze, that her daughter was touched by a bullet in Gori I stopped only thinking about the project. The daughter of Natia is a journalist and she was shot during a live TV presentation.
Shortly after the so-called “cease fire” the research project was approved.