WiP: “Hydroelectric Dam Construction and National Identity in Georgia”

CRRC and ARISC are pleased to announce the 10th talk of the Spring 2024 Tbilisi Works-in-Progress series!

“Hydroelectric Dam Construction and National Identity in Georgia”

Alex Bezahler, University of Iowa

How does national identity develop? Identity development has long been a focus of political scientists, historians, and sociologists. Despite such prominent attention given, the topic persists as questions over nationhood and national identity formation continue to be illusive. Paralleling this interest is a growing literature on water and how its development impacts conflict, protests, and politics throughout the world. The sub question of particular interest for my research is: how does water development, specifically hydroelectricity, interact with notions of nationhood and national identity? Within the context of the proposed question, the speakers uses Georgia as a central case study for his project. Georgia has large amounts of water that it has consistently explored developing since independence, yet political opposition and protests have stymied potential dams. He argues that under certain conditions, such as those found in Georgia, water development features prominently into national identity development and debates. Placing water and the environment as central to identity development builds off previous research on nationalism, nationhood, and environmental history. This project is the foundation for the speaker’s dissertation, for which he anticipates collecting interviews and quantitative data for over the next two years.

Alex Bezahler is a third year PhD student at the University of Iowa, in the United States. His research is located at the intersection of natural resources and national identity in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. This interest stems from a need to understand comparative politics in the context of climate change. Of particular interest in his work is the nation-building impacts of hydroelectric dam building and water development. Alex’s former research involves environmental law, which was his focus while earning a Juris Doctor and an Masters in Nationalism Studies. He was previously a regulatory specialist for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (Dept. of Labor) and the Forest Service, both agencies in the US federal government. For the academic 2024-2025 year, Alex has been awarded a Boren Fellowship to study Georgian while conducting interviews in Georgia.

*This week the speaker will be online, but an in-person audience is invited to gather at CRRC Georgia in Tbilisi.

Works-in-Progress is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that takes place at the CRRC office at Chavchavadze Ave. 5 and online. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC) and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.

In observation of the spirit of the Chatham House Rule, the talks will not be recorded, and we courteously request that the other participants refrain from recording and/or distributing recordings as well. The opinions expressed in WiP talks are those of the speakers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC or ARISC.