GEHAD ABAZA, "Making home(s) in the ‘Non-Existent’: Syrian War-Time Migration in Abkhazia"



This project seeks to tell the story of how people leave, find, and make spaces of home for themselves in times of war and its aftermath. In 2014, Abkhazia, a separatist state that succeeded from Georgia after the break-up of the Soviet Union, sponsored repatriation trips for a few hundred Circassian-Syrians. Disenchanted with the lethal conditions in Syria, the country they had grown up and lived in, these Syrian-Circassians decided to “return” to the homeland of their ancestors. While Abkhazia framed the trip as a homecoming, newcomers found themselves having to deal with the estrangement of life in the space of an aftermath of another war, that of separatism from Georgia. This project posits the question: how does one create spaces of home in the context of war and its aftermath? What role do women and their labor inside and outside the domestic space have in the practices of homemaking (which can also take place inside and outside domestic spaces)? And how does making home relate to the wider processes of nation-state building and capitalist market integration? The project hence examines the gendered spatial divisions of work, home, and the ways they reflect themselves on different imaginings of the state, and movement between states/across borders. I invoke Navaro Yael Yashin’s notion of the “make-believe space,” which she coins in an ethnography about the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, another unrecognized state. As Yashin reminds us, the point is not to make an anomaly out of unrecognized states, but rather to consider that most administrative practices in those spaces are not different from other states and their own practices of make-believeness. By looking at houses and workplaces, abandoned and (re)inhabited by refugees, I examine the politicized/gendered ways that negotiations of state power reflect themselves inside and outside spaces of the home.


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Contributed date

February 5, 2020 - 12:18pm

Critical Commentary

Gehad Abaza is a PhD student in the Anthropology program at the University of California Santa Barbara. She received an MA in Sociology-Anthropology and a BA Honors Political Science from the American University in Cairo (AUC). Before starting her PhD, she worked as a journalist and photographer in Egypt, writing for local and regional outlets such as Daily News Egypt, Mada Masr, Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Aswat Masriya, Middle East Eye, Al- Monitor, and more. Her research interests include questions of statehood, migration, and citizenship in the Middle East and the Caucasus.

Cite as

Kaitlyn Rabach, "GEHAD ABAZA, "Making home(s) in the ‘Non-Existent’: Syrian War-Time Migration in Abkhazia" ", contributed by Kaitlyn Rabach and Danielle Yorleny Tassara, Center for Ethnography, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 5 February 2020, accessed 9 May 2021.