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UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)

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David Rypel

David Rypel

Supervisors: Prof Richard Mole and Dr Aglaya Snetkov

Present Status: MPhil Candidate

Working title of thesis: Politics of Belonging and Security among Queer Georgians

Research:

What is security? In academic and political discussions, the term is often associated with phenomena such as arms control, anti-terrorism measures or fight against crime; or – if one approaches the subject from a more critical perspective – with ways of exercising control over populations. But what can we learn about security if we shift the focus from state structures and spectacular events to the meanings and forms it assumes in locations that do not always feature in our thinking about the world? What can variously positioned “ordinary” people teach us if we treat them as agents with their own conceptions, strategies and practices of security rather than passive victims?

My ethnographic research is such an attempt to broaden and deepen our understanding of security by focusing on the experience of queer people in Georgia. Their lives are affected by pervasive queerphobic violence and discrimination, and so they have to navigate a threatening social terrain on an everyday basis. Nonetheless, I do not limit my inquiry to strategies of coping with hate crimes because – as my interlocutors tell me – security is more than just survival: it may also stem from a feeling of belonging or a process of self-realisation. However, as each notion of security seems to organise a different set of practices, sometimes one gets into a situation where they become irreconcilable; for instance, working on being secure in terms of being true to oneself may result in getting assaulted. Paraphrasing Annemarie Mol, security thus seems to be multiple and it is not always possible to enact all its versions at the same time. Moreover, since the literature assumes that security inevitably leads to categorising people as either Friends or Enemies, I want to explore how the effort to enhance one’s feeling of security intersects with politics of belonging and whether this broadened attention to “alternative” conceptions of security may point to constellations which escape or overcome this logic.

I gratefully acknowledge the financial support from SSEES and the Frederick Bonnart-Braunthal Trust.