• Georgian Polyphonic Imaginaries: The Politics of Representation in the Caucasus

      Jhala, Jayasinhji; Garrett, Paul B., 1968-; Levitt, Laura, 1960-; Grant, Bruce, 1964-; Sanders, Rickie (Temple University. Libraries, 2012)
      This study examines the efficacy of new liberal policies designed to recognize cultural difference and improve integration of ethnic communities in Georgia, an emerging democracy in the Caucasus. Ethnographic fieldwork was conducted in the city of Tbilisi over nine months in 2009 to investigate public opinion and observe changes in heritage-related endeavors. The liberal policies are part of a reform initiative of president Mikheil Saakashvili and reflect his reimagining of the Georgian nation in civic terms rather than ethnonationalist ones. I recognize the unique and ambitious nature of this project and believe that Georgia's leaders are keenly aware of the constraints on their small nation in the context of late capitalism. The project, which I call the Multiethnic Georgia project, is thus a response to these conditions by deploying multiethnic identity as a resource and thus a way to reconfigure Georgia's relationships with its global partners. The Multiethnic Georgia project is problematic on a few levels. At its outset, the project responds to neoliberal pressure rather than to people's desire for a national concept change. Also, average Georgians (not including minorities) believe these kinds of social management paradigms are unnecessary. They claim they have always been tolerant and that social leveling mechanisms will only exacerbate the friction between people. In this sense, ordinary Georgians as well as more educated observers, touch on a problematic feature of the Western recognition paradigm, which arose to prevent ethnic conflict but does not deal with underlying structures that create social inequality. This project seems to be inculcating a superficial approximation of multicultural coexistence. I call attention to Georgian inter-culturalism instead, which exists in the form of unique social practices that show interdependence, flexibility and openness, as well as local norms of civility, and is a better platform from which to construct a recognition and ethnic integration project.