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Power differentials and identity formation: Images of self and other on the Russian–Georgian boundary

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Abstract:

This article looks at how Russia places herself in relation to one of her southern neighbours, Georgia, and vice versa. Russia and Georgia have recently been engaged in a short but full-fledged war, hence their interrelationship has been intensely debated in both countries. Both Russia and Georgia are, as it were, poised ‘between East and West’.

As a starting point, therefore, we hypothesized that Russians would present themselves as a European nation while they would orientalise the Georgians. Conversely, the Georgians would define themselves into and the Russians out of Europe. We found, however, that identity construction on the Russian-Georgian border is not symmetrical. While the Georigan discourse basically confirmed our assumption, in Russia the dominant discourse is that Russia and Georgia are closely related, fraternal peoples. This shows the importance of power relations in the study of reciprocal identity formations.

While hegemonic discourses often are discourses of exclusion our study shows that a discourse of inclusion—in our case a rhetoric of ‘brotherhood’—often may be a more effective technique of domination. The prevailing discourse in the weaker group, on the other hand, will focus more on cultural distance towards the more powerful Other.

Keywords: Ethnic boundaries; Georgia; Identity Formation; Power Differentials; Representations; Russia

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14608944.2011.646974

Affiliations: 1: University of Oslo, Norway 2: Aleksandr Rusetskii,director South Caucasus Institute for Regional Security,

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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