The Curse of Displacement: Local Narratives of Forced Expulsion and the Appropriation of Abandoned Property in Abkhazia

Andrea Peinhopf*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Since the end of the Georgian-Abkhaz war, the often-precarious status of the Georgians displaced from Abkhazia has received significant academic attention. In contrast, the consequences of displacement from the reverse perspective—how it has affected the people who stayed behind—remains underanalyzed. Drawing on narratives collected during several months of ethnographic fieldwork, this article argues that although ethnic Abkhazians see themselves as victims of ethnic violence rather than perpetrators, the re-distribution of Georgian property nevertheless caused significant distress. Many condemned the practice of appropriation, suggesting that taking what is not one’s own is not only a violation of the property of the original owner, but also ofthe Abkhaz moral code and therefore shameful. To them, the trophy houses were a curse, both literally—as spaces haunted by former occupants—and metaphorically, as a source and reminder of a certain “moral corruption” within Abkhazian society. However, while the stories around the trophy houses reflect substantial intra-communal divisions, I suggest that they are also an expression ofa shared postwar experience. Like the horror stories of Georgian violence, and the tales of Abkhaz heroism, they have become part of an intimate national repertoire constitutive of Abkhazia’s postwar community.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)710-727
Number of pages18
JournalNationalities Papers
Volume49
Issue number4
Early online date15 Jun 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes

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