Vulnerability and Resilience: Women’s Narratives of Forced Displacement from Abkhazia

  • Nargiza Arjevanidze


This chapter focuses on the lives of women forcefully uprooted from Abkhazia as a result of the armed conflict that emerged at the beginning of the 1990s. Based on ethnographic research and life-story interviews, this chapter listens to women’s voices as they reflect on their lives during and after the conflict, while living in a period of prolonged displacement. This chapter explores how these women’s past experiences and memories of armed conflict are linked to their present circumstances and to their lives in peaceful times, distanced from past violent events, yet characterized by the uncertainty caused by the protracted nature of their displacement. In particular, this chapter traces how these women have coped with extremes of change, and how the violent events of their past lives have become an inseparable part of the everyday by their descent into the ordinary (Das 2007). Although they were naturally vulnerable to crisis, it was the forms and tactics of everyday resilience during and after the armed conflict that allowed individuals to cope with and survive these traumatic events. By allying with the scholars who challenge the construction of human beings as either resilient or vulnerable/passive, this analysis attempts to offer new ways of conceptualizing this dichotomy through and exploration of internally displaced women.


  1. Altinay, Ayşe Gül and Andrea Pető. 2016. Gendered Wars, Gendered Memories. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Arjevanidze, Nargiza. 2017a. “Remembering the Past: Narratives of Displaced Women from Abkhazia.” In Gender in Georgia: Feminist Perspectives on Culture, Nation and History in the South Caucasus, edited by Maia Barkaia and Alisse Waterston. New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  3. ———. 2017b. “Experiences of Protracted Displacement in Narratives of Internally Displaced Women from Abkhazia.” Conference Materials. Heinrich Boell Foundation. South Caucasus Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, Tbilisi, Georgia.Google Scholar
  4. Brooks, Abigail. 2007. “Feminist Standpoint Epistemology: Building Knowledge and Empowerment Through Women’s Lived Experience.” In Feminist Research Practice: A Primer, edited by Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber and Patricia Lina Leavy, 53–82. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  5. Buck, Thomas, Alice Morton, Susan Allen Nan, and Feride Zurikashvili. 2000. “Aftermath: Effects of Conflict on Internally Displaced Women in Georgia.” Working Paper No. 310. ReliefWeb. September 3, 2011.
  6. Chanfrault-Duchet, Marie-Francoise. 1991. “Narrative Structures, Social Models, and Symbolic Representation in the Life Story.” In Women’s Worlds: The Feminist Practice of Oral History, edited by Shernar Berger Gluck and Daphne Patai, 77–92. New York and London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Das, Veena. 2000. “The Act of Witnessing: Violence, Poisonous Knowledge, and Subjectivity.” In Violence and Subjectivity, edited by Veena Das, Arthur Kleinman, Mamphela Ramphele, and Pamela Reynolds, 205–226. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  8. ———. 2006. Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary. California: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  9. Dunn, Elizabeth. 2014. “Humanitarianism, Displacement, and the Politics of Nothing in Postwar Georgia.” Slavic Review 73 (2) (Summer): 287–306. Scholar
  10. Greenhouse, Carol J. 2002 “Introduction: Altered States, Altered Lives.” In Ethnography in Unstable Places: Everyday Lives in Contexts of Dramatic Political Change, edited by Carol J. Greenhouse, Carol J. Elizabeth Mertz, and Kay B. Warren. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Hirsch, Marianne. 2016. “Vulnerable Times.” In Vulnerability in Resistance, edited by Judith Butler, Zeynep Gambetti, and Leticia Sabsay, 76–96. New York: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Human Rights Watch. 1995. “Georgia/Abkhazia: Violations of the Laws of War and Russia’s Role in the Conflict.” 7 (7).
  13. ———. 2011. “Living in Limbo: Rights of Ethnic Georgians Returnees to the Gali District of Abkhazia.” June 15, 2011.
  14. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). 1999. “Country Report Georgia/Abkhazia.”
  15. Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). 2016. “Global Report on Internal Displacement.”
  16. IDMC/NRC. 2012. “Georgia: Partial Progress Towards Durable Solutions for IDPs Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre/Norwegian Refugee Council.”
  17. Jackson, Michael. 2002. The Politics of Storytelling: Violence, Transgression, and Intersubjectivity. Portland: Museum Tusculanum Press.Google Scholar
  18. Jacobsen, Karen. 2014. “Livelihoods and Forced Migration.” In The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, edited by Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Gil Loescher, Katy Long and Nando Sigona, 99–111. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Kabachnik, Peter, Joanna Regulska, and Beth Mitchneck. 2010. “Where and When Is Home? The Double Displacement of Georgian IDPs from Abkhazia.” The Journal of Refugee Studies 23 (3): 315–336. Scholar
  20. Kabachnik, Peter, Magda Grabowska, Joanna Regulska, Beth Mitchneck, and Olga V. Mayorova. 2013. “Traumatic Masculinities: The Gendered Geographies of Georgian IDPs from Abkhazia.” Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography 20 (6): 773–793. Scholar
  21. Light, Duncan, and Craig Young. 2015. “Local Memories in a Nationalizing and Globalizing World.” In Local Memories in a Nationalizing and Globalizing World, edited by Marnix Beyen and Brecht Deseure, 221–243. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  22. Lundgren, Minna. 2016. “Boundaries of Displacement: Belonging and Return Among Forcibly Displaced Young Georgians from Abkhazia.” PhD diss., Mid-Sweden University.Google Scholar
  23. Meintjes, Sheila, Anu Pillay, and Meredeth Turshen. 2002. The Aftermath: Women in Post-conflict Transformation. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  24. Mitchnek, Beth, Olga V. Mayorova, and Joanna Regulska. 2009. “Post-conflict Displacement: Isolation and Integration in Georgia.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 99 (5): 1022–1032. Scholar
  25. Palmberger, Monika. 2008. “Nostalgia Matters: Nostalgia for Yugoslavia as Potential Vision for a Better Future.” Sociologija 50 (4): 355–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Regulska, Joanna, Beth Mitchnek, and Peter Kabachnik. 2017. “Displacement, State Violence and Gender Roles: The Case of Internally Displaced and Violence-Affected Georgian Women in Gender in Georgia.” In Gender in Georgia: Feminist Perspectives on Culture, Nation and History in the South Caucasus, edited by Maia Barkaia and Alisse Waterston. New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  27. Rekhviashvili, Lela. 2012. “Survival Strategies of the Poor and Marginalized—The Case of Internally Displaced People in Georgia.” SEER: Journal for Labour and Social Affairs in Eastern Europe 15 (1): 123–135. Scholar
  28. ———. 2015. “The Politics of Helping: Mobilizing Support for Internally Displaced Persons After the 2008 Russia-Georgia War.” Journal of Internal Displacement 5 (2): 2–18.Google Scholar
  29. Rydström, Helle. 2007. “Proximity and Distance: Vietnamese Memories of the War with the USA.” Anthropological Forum 17 (1): 21–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 2008. “A Talent for Life: Reflections on Human Vulnerability and Resilience.” Ethnos 73 (1): 25–56. Scholar
  31. Toria, Malkhaz. 2015. “Remembering Homeland in Exile: Recollections of IDPs from the Abkhazia Region of Georgia.” Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe 14 (1): 48–70.
  32. Turner, Victor. 1967. The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Vigh, Henrik. 2008. “Crisis and Chronicity: Anthropological Perspectives on Continuous Conflict and Decline.” Ethnos 73 (1): 5–24. Scholar
  34. Walker, Robert. 2014. The Shame of Poverty: Global Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Waterston, Alisse, and Rylko-Bauer Barbara. 2006. “Out of the Shadows of History and Memory: Personal Family Narratives in Ethnographies of Rediscovery.” American Ethnologist 330 (3): 397–412. Scholar
  36. Zürcher, Christoph. 2007. The Post-Soviet Wars: Rebellion, Ethnic Conflict, and Nationhood in the Caucasus. New York: New York University.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nargiza Arjevanidze
    • 1
  1. 1.Tbilisi State UniversityTbilisiGeorgia

Personalised recommendations