Gehad M Abaza

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Santa Barbara, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10278

Approve Date

April 13, 2022

Project Title

Abaza, Gehad (California, Santa Barbara, U. of) "Building a House, Crafting a State: Syrian-Circassian Wartime Migration to Abkhazia"

My research investigates how wartime migrants navigate the housing policies of an internationally unrecognized state, Abkhazia, and how state officials utilize housing to shape and define their citizenry. Approaching conflict as generative of different daily practices, I ask: What does the house as a gendered and political space (Carsten 2004), reveal about state-making projects, ethno-racial exclusion, and displacement through the socio-political relations of its inhabitants? I explore how people construct homes in post-war contexts, and how those strategies intersect with state-formations through an ethnographic inquiry of Circassian-Syrians’ migration to Abkhazia. In 2014, Abkhazia, an unrecognized state in the Caucasus, sponsored the ‘return migration’ of hundreds of Circassian-Syrians. By inviting Syrian descendants of historically displaced Circassians, the Abkhazian state sought to increase the number of ‘ethnic Abkhaz’ in the country ). While the ministry framed the trip as a ‘homecoming’ to their ancestral land, Syrian newcomers found themselves traversing life in the aftermath of the 1992 successionist war with Georgia, and often inhabiting long-abandoned houses of Georgians exiled from Abkhazia. Using the house as a lens, I trace the experience of Syrian-Circassians’ encounters with an often disillusioning ancestral homeland, the specters of their dispossession, and the exile of Georgians before them.