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Borderization theatre: geopolitical entrepreneurship on the South Ossetia boundary line, 2008–2018

In: Caucasus Survey
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  • 1 School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech, Alexandria, VA, USA
  • | 2 School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech, Alexandria, VA, USA
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Borderization refers to the construction of physical barriers to transform a territorial ceasefire line into an international border. The term was used first by European Union officials to refer to the administrative boundary line between Georgia and de facto state of South Ossetia. The article analyses how physical border construction in this area became a theatre of symbolic (geo)political gamesmanship, a background prop for political competition between Georgian domestic parties and a pilgrimage site for visualizing Georgia’s victimhood to international audiences. Presenting borderization as evidence of domestic irresoluteness or geopolitical aggression is a rhetorical gambit that may or may not work. Those most associated with it in Georgian domestic politics lost power. Internationally, though, borderization is now part of standard litanies of Russian geopolitical aggression, cited even by politicians who support border walls. The relative success of Georgia’s borderization theatre complexifies hegemonic socialization arguments for it reveals the capacity of small states to socialize hegemonic states into sharing their tropes of victimhood and vulnerability.

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