No (Wo)man’s Land: Gendered Geographies of Arbitrary Detention and Creeping Annexation in Georgia

Authors: Ariel Otruba*, Rutgers University
Topics: Political Geography, Eurasia, Cultural Geography
Keywords: borders, feminist geopolitics, political geography, sovereignty, Georgia, Russia, gender
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Studio 6, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Performing an aspirational claim to sovereignty, green banners, trenches and stretches of tangled concertina wire fences warn of the danger of crossing the Russian enforced state border of the internationally unrecognized “Republic of South Ossetia.” Yet only a fraction of the South Ossetian “border” is formally demarcated, leaving much of the perimeter ostensibly invisible and ambiguous. The protracted uncertainty of this “border” offers a powerful instrument of political leverage against Georgia and constitutes a necessary precondition for the continued creeping annexation of territory. Furthermore, unmarked locations play an important role in mobilizing fear, which is used to discipline rural populations and render local bodies increasingly vulnerable to detainment by Russian border guards. Since the 2008 war, detentions of civilians from both sides of the dividing line of South Ossetia has intensified. Based on recent dissertation fieldwork, this paper explores the embodied experience of (non)recognition geopolitics and the corporeal in/security of conflict affected populations. Examining how this invisible and moving “border” becomes legible to Georgian men and women in adjacent villages exemplifies a gendered and intersectional entanglement of spatial knowledge and border securitization. Local stories about mobility, which frame detention as a “man’s issue,” illustrate how able-bodied men become differentially imperiled vis-à-vis women under this border regime.

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