Identity Workshop

Event Date: 

Thursday, May 9, 2019 - 12:30pm to 2:00pm

Event Location: 

  • Lane Room
  • Ellison Hall 3824

The Identity Group in Political Science is hosting the second speaker for the Identity Workshop. Workshops aim to provide a venue in which graduate students and faculty interested in Identity issues from across campus can share their research.  The workshops are available to present drafts of articles, books, dissertation chapters and prospectuses, conference papers, job talks as well as ideas about future research. 

Presented by: Gehad Abaza, PhD Student, Anthropology 

On becoming citizens of the ‘non-existent’: Syrian war-time migration in Abkhazia

In 2014, the unrecognized Abkhazian state sponsored repatriation trips for a group of approximately 400 Circassian Syrians in an attempt to “bring back” some of its diaspora and increase its number of citizens. The only condition was that the travelers must be Syrians of Circassian origin and not “Arab Syrians.” Upon their arrival, the Abkhazian state began working on issuing passports for the new citizens to-be. The waiting time for the repatriates depended on their lineage, and whether their ancestors had been from Abkhazia, or other areas in the Caucasus such as the Republic of Adygea or Kabardino-Balkaria. Those whose last names were “Abaza,” or could claim to be descendants of Abkhazians, were given citizenship in two weeks to a month, while others were made to wait for a year or longer. In this paper, I argue that Abkhazian statehood had come to be practiced, and performed through Syrian war-time migrants’ repatriation. Consequently, ethnic categories that did not matter back in Syria, “where everyone was just Circassian,” began to matter in Abkhazia. By looking at people’s narratives of migration, this project also looks at how classifications arise and are reified within the boundaries of modern nation-states.