Identity and Traditional Law

Local Legal Conceptions in Svan Villages, Georgia

in Anthropological Journal of European Cultures
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  • 1 University of Marburg
  • | 2 Tbilisi State University
  • | 3 Institute of History and Ethnology
  • | 4 University of Marburg
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Traditional law continues to be relevant for the Svans (Georgians), who usually live in the highlands of the Caucasus, but who have also migrated to various parts of Georgia. To grasp its practice we draw on approaches in which its use is discussed as a strategy for '(re)asserting collective identities' (Benda-Beckmann) in order to enforce specific goals. But our research also shows another dimension of traditional law: more than in actual conflict resolutions, traditional law is found in narratives, that is in memories of how conflicts were resolved earlier and should be solved today. These stories, however, of how and when traditional law should be applied rarely correspond to lived reality. Drawing on Brubaker and Cooper, we argue that beside a rather instrumental motivated use of traditional law in asserting collective identities, its contemporary practice can only be fully understood if we also acknowledge its non-instrumental practice.

Anthropological Journal of European Cultures

(formerly: Anthropological Yearbook of European Cultures)


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