On January 26-31, 2014, the winter school and first meeting of the HBF SC scholars of 2014 took place in Tbilisi (Georgia). A group of ten early-stage researchers from Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, who were recently selected for the scholarship to conduct interdisciplinary research on a topic related to social and political issues of the South Caucasus states, gathered at the South Caucasus Regional Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation. Next to supporting individual research, the scholarship program intends to promote the further development of the social sciences in the region and the emergence of a scholarly network. Its special feature is the close contact between the scholarship holders and various experts who act as academic mentors and give concrete feedback on the research projects. During the winter school, the experts also gave workshops on methodology and presentations on various issues within social science research.
The first day of the winter school was dedicated to last years’ alumni presenting the research they conducted under the scholarship program of 2013. Their projects included such interesting topics as analyzing spatial differences of voting behavior in Tbilisi, the second life of abandoned settlements in Armenia, the discourse of prestigiousness surrounding funerals in Yerevan and analysis of Tbilisi’s makeover through pictorial imaginations.
The next four days were devoted to joint working sessions of the current scholars and experts of the HBF SC. Five scholars from Armenia, two scholars from Azerbaijan and three scholars from Georgia presented their research proposals and engaged in fruitful discussion with their pairs and mentors. Scholars are focusing on four thematic areas of the Scholarship Program: State and Society – Social Structures, Political Culture and Institutions; Social-Political Aspects of Urban Development; Gender Sensitivity and Gender Roles in Post-Soviet Societies; and Migration – Variety of Structures and Trends.
Hard working was accompanied by informative tour through old parts of downtown Tbilisi. A walking tour on Wednesday (January 29) afternoon of Tbilisi, guided by architect-urbanist and HBF expert Lado Vardosanidze and social anthropologist and HBF SC alumni Data Chigholashvili, provided an intriguing inside perspective on the reconstruction of Tbilisi’s historical districts.
On Friday (January 31), the last day of the winter school, the grantees conducted a field research exercise. They were divided into three groups and instructed by HBF SC expert Viktor Voronkov to observe three places in the urban fabric of Tbilisi. In the end of the day the scholars presented their findings, revealing economic and social-cultural aspects of public and private institutions’ functioning.
The Heinrich Boell Foundation wishes all scholars a fruitful year, interesting work on their projects and further productive exchange during the summer and autumn