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Secularism and Belief in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge

Rebecca Gould

University of Bristol

September 14, 2011

Journal of Islamic Studies, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp. 339-373, 2011

The Pankisi Gorge is often associated in the public imagination with terror. This essay contests such stereotypes through ethnographies far removed from media headlines. Rejecting facile reductions of Pankisi to a site for breeding terror, it situates Chechen (Kist) belief systems within the framework of a post-secular anthropology of Islam. The Kists, Chechen inhabitants of Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, engage daily with variegated forms of Islam, Christianity, state-sponsored secularism, and local paganisms. Ethnographies of Islamic minarets and Christian headstones are studied here alongside post-Soviet forms of secular nationalism. The syncretic belief systems being generated in Pankisi today are heavily shaped by the local realities of a region where Christianity and Islam have flourished alongside local paganisms for centuries. Through its ethnographies of everyday life at the borders of multiple religions, and by drawing on the work of Talal Asad and other anthropologists of Islam, this essay aims to overcome the constraints imposed by secular forms of knowledge on the study of Islamic societies.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 35

Keywords: Islam, Christianity, Secularity, Secularism, Sufism, Chechnya, Anthropology, Islam, Post-Soviet, Pankisi, Asad

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Date posted: September 16, 2011 ; Last revised: September 23, 2012

Suggested Citation

Gould, Rebecca, Secularism and Belief in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge (September 14, 2011). Journal of Islamic Studies, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp. 339-373, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1927686

Contact Information

Rebecca Gould (Contact Author)
University of Bristol ( email )
United Kingdom
HOME PAGE: http://bristol.academia.edu/RebeccaGould
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