Young researchers and established experts from across the region explored the theme “South Caucasus: Seeking a New Identity” at the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s sixth Summer School, held on 25-31 July 2009 in Bakuriani, Georgia. The School, which is part of the Foundation’s Regional Scholarship Program, gave the scholars in the program an opportunity to present interim results from their research both to their peers and to external experts. Satenik Mkrtchjan discussed differences in how Georgian and Armenian history textbooks from the Soviet and post-Soviet periods present the ideas of nations and states. Tamta Melashvili examined motivations for women’s migration, and how these motivations are socially and culturally constructed. Shorena Gabunia presented eye-opening work on homosexuality in Tbilisi’s urban culture. The external scholars invited to the School also made presentations. Giorgi Nizharadze spoke about trends in Georgian society in a talk entitled, “Between a Laptop and the Cross.” Malkhaz Saldadze covered aspects of civil society in dynamically changing political environment. Olesya Kirchik addressed paradoxes of establishing democracy and a market-based economy.
In addition to the research presentations, the Summer School featured lectures, seminars and workshops to sharpen the scholars’ skills in academic writing, research structure, qualitative social survey methods, presentation and project planning. This training is part of the program’s overall goal of bringing scholarship in the Southern Caucasus up to European and international standards. Another ongoing aspect of the Summer School series is to strengthen contacts and networks among scholars in the Southern Caucasus, between disciplines and across national borders. The 2009 group included researchers in sociology, anthropology, political science, urban studies and psychology. Discussions went beyond the research presentations and included first-hand reports on public and political transformation processes in each of the region’s three countries.
As part of the 2009 Regional Scholarship Program, the fellows will participate in a conference in the autumn in cooperation with Duisburg University and the German Academic Exchange Agency. In early 2010 they will present the results of their year’s work at a closing symposium. Afterward, they will join the network of Heinrich Böll Foundation alumni, who continue the work of internationalizing scholarship in the Southern Caucasus and increasing exchanges with the rest of Europe.
The Heinrich Böll Foundation has supported the Regional Scholarship Program since 2004.