Associate Professor, Social Sciences and Dean of the Graduate School, Free University of Tbilisi
ABSTRACT | Georgian Bivocality and the New Radical Nationalism
This paper examines an emerging populist nationalist movement in Georgia known as “Georgian March.” Much like other populist movements in Europe, Georgian March has a radical nationalist and anti-elitist ideology and is primarily concerned with illegal immigration and boundary maintenance of the nation-state. While the appeal of the Georgian March to the idea of popular sovereignty resembles global trends of populist movements, the rhetorical tactics of its leaders rely on a very specific culturally grounded idiom of political expression. At the heart of their propaganda is a language that is marked by constant references to the nation’s memory narratives and makes use of terms such as “genetic enemy” to denounce selling Georgian lands to Iranians and Arabs. Taking apart some of their strategic discursive maneuvers I will try to show the extent to which this radical nationalism is in dialogue with banal forms of Georgian national imagination; in particular the ways in which their language is entrenched in Georgian bivocality – a form of collective self-identification that stems from the narratives of the nation’s past. More generally, it is my argument that crucial to understanding how these movements gain force and popular support from the local populations requires interrogating ways in which they base the logic of their radical claims in culturally grounded semantic structures. By mobilizing memory narratives that are part and parcel of everyday, banal, and less malignant forms of nationalism they appeal to the very public sensibilities that sustain national imagination as such.