The Georgian Dilemma: Backstage vs. Front Stage Discourses on Europeanisation

  • Abstract:

    The paper analyzes the Georgians’ popular discourses on Europeanisation after the country initialled the Association Agreement with the EU in November 2013.It investigates into a dilemma the Georgians encounter: their strong aspiration to integrate with the EU is combined with their perception of Europeanisation as a threat to the national identity. Consequently, the paper focuses on how the above discourses are performed at the domestic backstage vs. international front stage. For this purpose, the author has studied the Georgians’ discourses on the EU integration from two main sources: The discussions held on the popular amateur website – and a Facebook discussion group entitled “National Identity and Europeanisation in Georgia,” created and moderated by the author, and consisting of BA, MA and PhD students of Tbilisi State University. The two sources allow for a comparison of the discourses on Europeanisation between two groups: a large anonymous group of Georgians with various sociodemographic characteristics involved in the forum discussions and a closed Facebook group of the younger generation of Georgians with higher education – a category that, according to the nation-wide surveys, is the most pro-EU segment of the population. The paper argues that despite the country’s long-lasting aspiration towards the EU integration and the latest developments in this direction, the hopes of gaining political security, economic stability, and cultural integration are accompanied by the doubts and fears of asymmetric power relations, diminishing national sovereignty, and declining national identity. Despite these doubts, the EU integration is considered to be the only right path for Georgia, encouraging our discussants to voice their hopes on the front stage pushing their doubts and respective national sentiments to the backstage. These frontstage-backstage discourses on Europeanisation display rather ambivalent identities attempting to perform sufficient nationalism and sufficient Europeanness for the domestic and international audiences respectively.