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Being a State and States of Being in Highland Georgia

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Volume 24

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Being a State and States of Being in Highland Georgia

Florian Mühlfried

264 pages, 27 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-296-6 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (May 2014)

eISBN 978-1-78238-297-3 eBook

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“Once he has laid the historical and geographical groundwork, Mühlfried’s ethnography excels… Mühlfried’s historical overview of Tushetians’ relationship to the state is indispensable. This is essential reading for scholars of the Caucasus as well as those interested in Soviet and post-Soviet citizenship. Mühlfried’s discussion of religiosity as forming a “spiritual border” entwined with the state is compelling and worth pursuing in future studies.” · American Ethnologist

“…the book gives a fresh and highly interesting point of view on what it means to be a citizen (or subject) in an entity (or state) that tends to have ‘a century of perestroikas’. The new look at what the concept and practice of citizenship encapsulates will be useful for both theoreticians and practical policy-makers.” · Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics

“…the book is pioneering in its depiction of highland Georgia—an area that has so far received little attention in English-language academic publications— particularly in relation to the role and importance of shrines. Further, it presents an interesting outline of recent historical changes in the model of the state in the Republic of Georgia, from a federalist folk model to a neoliberal pragmatic model to an essentialist and nationalist Orthodox one… it will be of great value to any student or scholar researching the mountain regions of the Caucasus.” · Slavic Review

“This book provides a refreshing insight into an interesting region mainly known for its folkloristic dimension. It is an important contribution to the stud of postsocialist border regimes - sometimes permeable and other times closed and highly securitized – to understand forms of political and social identification with and detachment from the state.” · Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale

“It is an important contribution to the anthropology of the state, the Caucasus and it especially helps to conceptualise a group of people without falling in the trap of ethnic ‘groupism’, so present in many writings on the Caucasus.” · Stephane Voell, Philipps University Marburg

“This is an exceptionally ambitious study… it is highly original – no one else has written about these mountains before! More generally, the work brings a fresh voice to discussions in political anthropology about the nature of the state and how it can be 'tempered' (effectively domesticated)” · Chris Hann, Max Planck Institute Halle

“I found this to be a delightful book on a badly needed subject... there are few, if any, finely tuned English-language ethnographic monographs that can... help us build a clearer body of knowledge of this world area. Being a State, in my view, fills just this gap.” · Bruce Grant, New York University

“This book… will point the way to promising avenues for future research on the cultural and religious practices of the peoples of the Caucasus (and doubtless elsewhere).” · Kevin Tuite, University of Montréal


The highland region of the republic of Georgia, one of the former Soviet Socialist Republics, has long been legendary for its beauty. It is often assumed that the state has only made partial inroads into this region, and is mostly perceived as alien. Taking a fresh look at the Georgian highlands allows the author to consider perennial questions of citizenship, belonging, and mobility in a context that has otherwise been known only for its folkloric dimensions. Scrutinizing forms of identification with the state at its margins, as well as local encounters with the erratic Soviet and post-Soviet state, the author argues that citizenship is both a sought-after means of entitlement and a way of guarding against the state. This book not only challenges theories in the study of citizenship but also the axioms of integration in Western social sciences in general.

Florian Mühlfried teaches in the Caucasus Studies Program at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena. Previously, he was a research assistant at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and a visiting professor at the University of Campinas, Brazil. He is he author of Post-Soviet Feasting: The Georgian Banquet in Transition (2006, in German) and co-edited Exploring the Edge of Empire: Soviet Era Anthropology in the Caucasus and Central Asia with Sergey Sokolovskiy (2012).

Subject: Anthropology (General)Mobility StudiesDevelopment Studies
Area: Central/Eastern Europe


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