Circassian Encounters: The Self as Other and the Production of the Homeland in the North Caucasus, by Seteney Shami


Diasporas are an increasingly important phenomenon in the ‘era of globalization’. Transnational networks structure and restructure economic exchanges, familial bonds, cultural identities and political mobilization. This article examines one such diaspora, which traces its origin to the North Caucasus, the Circassians. The break-up of the Soviet Union has enabled some people to journey back to their ‘homeland’ and even take up residence there once again. Through such journeys and the encounters that accompany them, notions of identity, history, culture and tradition are challenged. This has the dual effect of fragmenting ethnic identity while simultaneously transforming the ‘homeland’ from an abstract concept to an everyday reality. The ensuing interplaybetween nation and diaspora is translated by different individuals in different ways. Three narratives of journeys to the homeland are presented here, showing the complex motivations and consequences of such journeys. Ethnographies of globalization thus reveal that concepts of ‘ethnicity’, ‘nationalism’ and ‘ethnonationalism’ have to be rethought in the context of shifting borders, transnational encounters and the production of diasporas.

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