Anastasia Shesterinina begins Mobilizing in Uncertainty: Collective Identities and War in Abkhazia (Cornell University Press, 2021) with an account of Georgian troops crossing into eastern Abkhazia, in the Southern Caucasus region adjacent Russia, on August 14, 1992. Thus the war that is the book’s subject began. Yet, people didn’t know it at the time. In fact, the question on people’s lips was: is this a war? The answer to the question was: yes. But the uncertainty to which the question gave voice led Shesterinina to the questions motivating this book, namely: how do ordinary people deal with uncertainty in civil war? How do they decide whether and in what way to mobilise, and for whom?
On this episode of New Books in Interpretive Political and Social Science Anastasia Shesterinina discusses her answers to these questions. Along the way, she also reflects on the inadequacies of theories that underestimate or overlook the uncertainty that pervades wartime conditions, particularly in wars’ earliest days; on the conduct and ethics of interview and ethnographic research in post-war settings; and, on the relevance of her research on Abkhazia for our understanding of the war in Ukraine today—and on why comparison of the two is, for her, not just an intellectually or politically interesting exercise.
Mobilizing in Uncertainty is (with Mona El-Ghobashy’s Bread and Freedom: Egypt’s Revolutionary Situation, Stanford, 2021) joint winner of the 2022 Charles Taylor Book Award, awarded annually by the Interpretive Methodologies and Methods group of the American Political Science Association for the best book in political science that employs or develops interpretive methodologies and methods.
Nick Cheesman is associate professor in the Department of Political and Social Change, Australian National University and in Fall 2022 a fellow at the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy, University at Buffalo. He is a committee member of the Interpretive Methodologies and Methods group of the American Political Science Association and co-convenes the Interpretation, Method, Critique network at the ANU.
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