Time to go home: imaginaries and institutional frames in the repatriation of the Muslim Meskhetians to Georgia
Paper short abstract:
Following a new law on repatriation, a small number of Muslim Meskhetians - a deported population - are resettling in their historical homeland in Georgia. This paper seeks to explore how imaginaries of a primordial duration collide/adjust with the more conventional time of policy-making planning.
Paper long abstract:
In 1944, the Muslims of Meskhetia were deported from the Georgian SSR, to be resettled in Central Asia. Today, the Meskhetian diaspora constitutes a transnational population. Their ethos is permeated by a sense of removal and dispersion, prompted by the narratives of that first forceful displacement, but also by successive mass scale, dramatic events, most notably the pogroms that, in 1989, targeted their communities in Uzbekistan. Their historical homeland, Meschetia, is comprised within present-day Samskhe-Javakheti, a province of Georgia, thus any progress towards repatriation is subordinated to the legal framework adopted by the latter country. My fieldwork within returnees' communities in Georgia has shown how deeply their aspirations are implicated with collective imaginaries of an uprooted, originary community and, ultimately, with a feeling of loss and oblivion. Parallel to a mythico-historical chronology that revolves around the event of deportation, the passing of time is also perceived as playing into the hands of abstract, conspiring entities - supposedly hostile governments, ethnic groups, ecc. - engaged in loosening the fabric of the community and in preventing a collective return. As the older generations die off and ideas of national belonging are reassessed, institutional frames fall short of confining imaginaries and aspirations towards the restoration of a historic justice. This paper sets out to explore how notions of a primordial time collide with the more mundane, conventional ethos expressed by bureaucratic deadlines, forms and applications, in the wake of Georgia's new law on repatriation.
Refugee visions and realities: interpreting time with people on the move