Back to list

Detail of contribution

Auteur: Concha Maria HÖFLER

Constructing and negotiating inter- and intra group boundaries in Georgia's Greek community

Abstract/Résumé: Acknowledged as “ethnically” Greek, members of Georgia's Greek community make use of a diverse range of categories and linguistic strategies, exceeding mere ethnic categories, to establish and negotiate a multifaceted collective identity. Boundaries are drawn as much within this multilingual community of linguistic practice as around it. The Greek community of Georgia may linguistically be divided into Urum Greeks and Pontian Greeks. Both moved from the Pontos region on the Black Sea coast to present day Georgia, starting in 1828. They settled mainly in the rural area of Tsalka and near the coast in Adjara (Xanthopoulou-Kyriakou 1991). Since 1990 most Greeks have left Georgia with only around 2000 Greeks having stayed. The paper is mainly on the Urum Greek subgroup. They speak a Turkish variety rather than Modern Greek, making the process of their identity construction and negotiation is a highly complex issue. The corpus comprises Urum narratives (Skopeteas et al. 2011) and semi-structured qualitative interviews. The broadly conversation analytical analysis (Czyżewsky et al. 1995) shows that although ethnicity does play a part in group formation, in- and out-groups are not construed along ethnic lines alone. While their Greek identity is very important to all of my informants, 'being Greek' is not in all contexts portrayed as the most relevant category. 'Place' – namely the difference between living in the capital Tbilisi or in the rural villages of Tsalka – emerges as a crucial reference point potentially overriding feelings of ethnic belonging. For the Urum living in Tbilisi, their “co-ethnics" who migrated from rural Tsalka to Greece are portrayed as a less fortunate “internal out-group” from which they strongly dissociate themselves. 'Age' influences portrayed closeness to Greece. Nevertheless, 'being Georgian' plays a major role for all participants – while they dissociate themselves from Georgian traditions or attitudes they evaluate negatively. Altogether, this is a highly complex system in which a whole range of categories is used in presenting and negotiating group identity with boundaries being drawn within the presented community as much as around it. Czyżewsky, M., Drescher, M., Gülich, E., Hausendorf, H. (eds.) 1995 Nationale Selbst- und Fremdbilder im Gespräch. Westdeutscher Verlag. Skopeteas, S., Markopoulos, A., Sella-Mazi, E., Verhoeven, E. 2011 “Documentation of Urum. Project Report”. Universities of Athens, Bielefeld, Bremen & Potsdam. (01.08.2011) Xanthopoulou-Kyriakou, A. 1991 The diaspora of the Greeks of the Pontos: Historical background. Journal of Refugee Studies 4(4): 357–363.