Anthropology, New York University
Location of Research: Georgia
Seventy years after a forced migration, what happens when a religious and ethnic minority group attempts to reclaim a historic homeland populated by those who profess to fear and resent them? For this research project, I ask this question of Meskhetian Turks whose lives have been marked by a series of displacements that began in 1944. What does local and international law offer these former deportees, and how do their own conceptions of property, propriety, and belonging govern their expectations? Through in-depth participant-observation in small Meskhetian Turkish communities throughout Georgia, I will learn about their interactions with neighbors, with local and transnational NGOs, and with various levels of Georgian government. Building on research in the anthropology of law and cross-disciplinary work on the transformations of postsocialist property and the nature of citizenship and the state, this project will offer novel anthropological insights on property, citizenship, democratization, diaspora communities, secularism, and Islam in the Caucasus.
Irina Levin is a doctoral student in New York University’s Department of Anthropology. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Irina worked as a legal coordinator for a nonprofit organization serving low-income litigants in New York City’s family courts. Before beginning her graduate training at NYU, Irina was a Fulbright IIE grantee in Azerbaijan, where she conducted pre-dissertation fieldwork with rural Meskhetian Turkish communities. This research informs her upcoming work with Meskhetian Turkish communities in Georgia.