Archive for March, 2009

Stéphane Voell will be organising (together with Andreas Hemming) a workshop on “Auf dem Weg zur Europäischen Union. Lokale Rezeption und Reaktion auf politischen Assoziierungsprozesse in Südosteuropa und im Kaukasus” [On the Way to the European Union: Local Reception and Reaction on the politicyl association process in Souteastern Europa and the Caucasus]. The workshop is part of the biannual conference of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde (DGV) which will take place this year in Frankfurt/Main.

The workshop focuses on:

Die Länder in Südosteuropa, die noch nicht EU-Mitglied sind, haben eine gesetzlich zugesicherte Perspektive auf Aufnahmeverhandlungen. Der südliche Kaukasus ist über die Europäische Nachbarschaftspolitik mit der EU verbunden. Doch wie wird die Annäherung auf der für die Lokalbevölkerung häufig abstrakten politischen Ebene vor Ort rezipiert? Im Workshop werden lokale Auseinandersetzungen mit den politischen Assoziierungsprozessen an die EU diskutiert.

Es sollen nicht Aussagen im Vordergrund stehen, die sehr allgemein beschreiben wie „Die Albaner sind gegen eine EU-Mitgliedschaft, weil …“. Im Zentrum stehen vielmehr die Ethnographie konkreter Individuen, Gruppen oder Institutionen, die z.B. Vertreter der Zivilgesellschaft, Religion, Minderheiten oder Behörden und Firmen sein können. Im Workshop wird gefragt, wie sich Menschen mit der EU identifizieren, was auf die EU projiziert wird und wir auf den EU-Assoziierungsprozess reagiert wird:

  • Identifikation: Wird sich mit der EU identifiziert? Steht eine Identifikation mit der EU neben einer nationalen bzw. regionalen Identität? Fördert der EU-Assoziierungsprozess vielleicht sogar eine zunehmende Fokussierung auf nationale oder regionale Werte und begünstigt damit ‚kulturelle’ Diversität?
  • Projektionen: Welches Wissen gibt es über die EU? Worauf gründet sich dieses Wissen? Welche Erwartungen, Hoffnungen, aber auch Ängste und Ablehnungsreaktionen werden mit dem EU-Assoziierungsprozess verbunden?
  • Reaktionen: Wie werden Ablehnung oder Zuspruch zum EU-Assoziierungsprozess ausgedrückt? Wie publik sind diese Aktionen und wie werden sie in der Bevölkerung rezipiert?

Der Schwerpunkt des Workshops soll auf Ländern liegen, die nicht Mitglied der EU sind (d.h. Albanien, Armenien, Aserbaidschan, Bosnien-Herzegowina, Georgien, Kosovo, Kroatien, Mazedonien, Montenegro, Serbien, Türkei).


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Prof. Dr. Mark Münzel (in the middle, left Stéphane Voell, right Lavrenti Janiashvili)

Prof. Dr. Mark Münzel (in the middle, left Stéphane Voell, right Lavrenti Janiashvili)

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)

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Left to right: Lavrenti Janiashvili, Natia Jalabadze, Stéphane Voell (in Mainz for the carneval processeion "Rosenmontagszug", February 2009; Foto: E. Kamm)

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.

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