EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination
Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010
Law in the Caucasus: anthropological perspectives on legal practice
Location John Hume Lecture Theatre 6
Date and Start Time 27 Aug, 2010 at 11:30
One of the ideas discussed by Bruce Grant and Lale Yalçın-Heckman in "Caucasus Paradigms" (2007) is the cultural, linguistic, religious, political and economic pluralisms in the region. In these pluralisms one important aspect is missing, namely the multitude of legal conceptions that exist in the Caucasus.
In numerous mountainous regions, traditional law is practiced and sometimes even staged as an intrinsic part of local identity. State law reacts differently to it and is itself often changing and at times used quite arbitrary. State law may also be confronted by legal residues of Soviet times. In some places, where the state is not present or weak, new informal legal structures may emerge and play an important role in daily life. Transnational actors or non-governmental organisations may enforce with their financial of political power their own procedures (project law) and change local laws. In some regions of the Caucasus, religious groups impose their own conceptions of legal order or try to do so.
In the workshop a decidedly anthropological perspective on law will be presented. The focus will be on empirical research on contemporary or historic legal practice. Studying legal texts is only one side of the medal; the other is examining law in practice, e.g. the enumerated rules and processes provided in interviews have to be confronted with how law is used. The workshop is about law in practice in the Caucasus as it is affected by power relations, cliental networks, ethnicity, religion or transnational influences.
This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.
Traditional legal practice in socialist times in Georgia
In contemporary Georgia, traditional law can be found in the highlands and some other regions. But what are the historical foundations of its present-day practice? My attention is focused on the functions of traditional law institutions in Tsarist and Soviet Georgia (especially in the regions of Svaneti and Kvemo Kartli) and the types of changes they underwent in the 20th century. In Svaneti, traditional law was important in Tsarist Georgia; e.g. the investigator-judge used to visit Svaneti only in summer periods and examined all the cases being piled during a year. On a superficial level, Svaneti was part of the Tsarist legal system. But day-to-day legal practice was not under control of the rarely present judges. This changed considerably in the Soviet times. With the implementation of the Soviet administration and its regulation the importance of, for example, community assemblies, which formed an important aspect in the local self-administration and were a kind of supra local back bone of traditional law, decreased and loosed their function. But still, on the village level, mediation of conflicts through elders persisted and traditional law continued to be practiced even in Soviet times. The relevance of traditional law in Socialist Georgia will be discussed on the basis of material gathered from the study of archive material, specialised literature and interviews.
Legitimisation of religious law in local communities in Dagestan
In Dagestan, we may observe a pertaining crisis of the state. In the mountain communities, people claim to live according to "their own laws" or Sharia. With silent consent from local (but not federal) police/militia and administration "jaamats" introduce penalties for selling and drinking alcohol, smoking, gambling or even playing music and not wearing a veil. Based on my research, I explore how and why in such "crisis places" informal rules keep on gaining legitimacy and how it is affected by fantasies (to use Zizek's term) for the (strong) state and self image of the community and its traditions. I will show that legitimisation of the informal rules owes to the fact that they're being presented by authoritative people as formal or not contradictory to the state law ("It is all compatible with Constitution of Russian Federation."). New rules are being inscribed in a wider context of the state, which as an abstract idea always bears a strong emotional potential, especially in the periphery. I will also show that informal rules gain legitimacy when perceived and presented as an intrinsic part of a local identity, morality and heritage.
Women and honour in the Republic of Georgia
The importance of honour and shame is still observable today in Georgia. The honour of a Georgian woman is connected to her sexual behaviour and her work in the household. She has to remain virgin until marriage and has to be loyal to her husband. A Georgian man's honour is defined trough manhood, strength and assertiveness. I will focus on alternative ways of social behaviour Georgian women have, beside the traditional idea of honour and shame. Social and political upheavals during the Socialist period, the independence in 1991 and the westernisation under Mikheil Saakashvili have influenced and modified the concept of honour. Migrated young women discover their womanhood in a new way when they live in a Western country and are not under control of their families. The dimensions of the changes and the alternative ways women find to reframe this concept will be part of the presentation.
Present-day customary law in urban Georgia and the response of the state (using the example of Tbilisi)
Legal pluralism in the Caucasus and in Georgia in particular is usually considered by the example of mountainous, or, at least, rural areas. However, legal norms and practices, parallel to those imposed by the state exist in Georgian urban culture, too. Until today, the right to justice alongside with (and often in contrast to the) state belongs - among others - to leaders of urban local youth groups and to the representatives of the "world of the thieves" who control them. In their decisions, they refer to a set of prescriptions and norms, which are known as "street code" or "street law" and can be determined as urban customary law. Several years ago, the state was not yet taking any steps on fighting with the street and the whole system of informal relationships and shadow economy that is based on "street code". With the arrival of Mikheil Saakashvili, the state seeks to take control over these spheres (street life in particular), that earlier were in full possession of the "thieves law" and local territorial groups. In my paper I will consider local legal practices of the urban street and the state response to them.
The custom of blood feud in Georgia: aggression and culture
The custom of blood feud is described in the literature on Georgia since the 19th century. Although in contemporary Georgia blood feud is proscribed by law the custom still persists in the Georgian highlands (e.g. Svaneti) and among the people migrated from the mountainous regions to the lowlands (e.g. Kvemo Kartli). In the presentation, it will be argued that the reasons for its preservation are not to be found in the popular argument concerning the lack of state control in the remote regions. On the one hand, blood feud stands in a close relationship to strong ideologies of honour which still appear important in every day life of highland people, no matter if the state is "strong" or "weak". On the other hand, as blood feud can be started easily after minor incidents, it always remains one option to embed conflicts with a rather material background in the ideology of feud which gives to a material conflict a kind of "cultural legitimation". The paper will discuss ethnographic data mainly obtained from research in the Georgian lowland region Kvemo Kartli.
Practices and discourses of transmigrant community in the field of private entrepreneurship: case of Greeks from Tsalka in Adyghea
The paper will be focused on a legal regime of one of the Greek (Urum) communities in the South of Russia. I will present and analyse some discourses and practices operating in the field of private entrepreneurship. Local entrepreneurs are at the same time members of the community and members of regional Greek Association regulating different aspects of local life, including their "access" to Greece and potential business partners in Greece. Therefore, the organisation of social space inside the community may be represented as a play of various capitals (financial, economic and symbolic) and as an arena of complicated struggles of contradictory strategies of reproduction (e.g. matrimonial and various communal strategies). The paper is based on my field materials from Russia (2007, 2010) and Greece (2009).
Traditional law in Kvemo Kartli and the reaction of the state
The Svan population in the Georgian highlands are proud of their legal traditions and likewise the Svans in the lowland region of Kvemo Kartli. The latter are "eco-migrants" who where forced to leave their home regions in highland Svaneti because of natural disasters and plans to construct a dam in the late 1980s. They were relocated in newly constructed villages. Until today, Svans continue to migrate to the lowlands and settle often in villages which were deserted by their former Greek or Ossetian inhabitants. The Svan claim that they manage the conflicts on the local level by their own means, i.e. by their "traditions". According to this, elders and mediators are the key actors in the maintaining social order. I will discuss that traditional legal practice is not an isolated social phenomena but deeply interrelated to state administrative practice. In my presentation, I will explore this interrelation and overlapping of traditional and official legal practice and argue that traditional law is not practiced in the Svan villages of Kvemo Kartli in spite of but because of the state.
This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.