Thu, 21.10.2021 16:00

ISA Online Guest Lecture: Florian MÜHLFRIED

Ungovernance and Spiritual Feudalism in Northeast Highland Georgia

Soviet and post-Soviet scholarship maintains that the communities of northeast highland Georgia were highly egalitarian until their integration in Georgian statehood. At the same time, their religious system is depicted as highly hierarchical and ordered by the principles of feudality. In my presentation, I would like to test one explanation for this seeming paradox, namely that the religious system in northeast highland Georgia reflects the pain of being governed by a coercive power that is associated with the hierarchical political system of the lowland. The political system present in the highlands, I argue, is constructed as a counter-image of the religious system, delegating coercive power to the realm of the exceptional and tabooing its usage in the organisation of political life. In this juxtaposition, coercive power becomes internalised, albeit as a negative pole. This contradicts the dictum that anti-state societies only experience coercive power as exterior. In the given case, they rather seem to routinize a form of negative politics that could be referred to as ungovernance oriented towards the containment of power. This interpretation provides the opportunity to discuss other forms of power containment and/or a political practice constituted against the realm of religion. 

Florian Mühlfried is a Professor of Social Anthropology at Ilia State University. He has been a Lecturer at the Tbilisi State University, a Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, a Visiting Professor at UNICAMP, Brazil, and an Assistant Professor at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. His publications include the monographs Mistrust: A Global Perspective (2019) and Being a State and States of Being in Highland Georgia (2014), the edited volume Mistrust: Ethnographic Approximations (2018), and the co-edited volumes Sacred Places, Emerging Spaces: Religious Pluralism in the Post-Soviet Caucasus (2018) and Exploring the Edge of Empire: Era Anthropology in the Caucasus and Central Asia (2011). 

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Thursday, October 21st, 2021, 4 pm 

ÖAW Institute for Social Anthropology
Online via Zoom