This book, one of the first in English about everyday life in
the Republic of Georgia, describes how people construct identity in
a rapidly changing border region. Based on extensive ethnographic
research, it illuminates the myriad ways residents of the Caucasus
have rethought who they are since the collapse of the Soviet
Through an exploration of three towns in the southwest corner of
Georgia, all of which are situated close to the Turkish frontier,
Mathijs Pelkmans shows how social and cultural boundaries took on
greater importance in the years of transition, when such divisions
were expected to vanish. By tracing the fears, longings, and
disillusionment that border dwellers projected on the Iron Curtain,
Pelkmans demonstrates how elements of culture formed along and in
response to territorial divisions, and how these elements became
crucial in attempts to rethink the border after its physical
rigidities dissolved in the 1990s.
The new boundary-drawing activities had the effect of grounding
and reinforcing Soviet constructions of identity, even though they
were part of the process of overcoming and dismissing the past.
Ultimately, Pelkmans finds that the opening of the border
paradoxically inspired a newfound appreciation for the previously
despised Iron Curtain as something that had provided protection and
was still worth defending.
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