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Dancing the Nation in the North Caucasus

  • Sufian Zhemukhov and Charles King
Abstract

In the north Caucasus, collective dance has long been an expression of communal identity and a forum for political dissent. In this article Sufian Zhemukhov and Charles King examine the emergence and transformation of a communal dance form known as adyge jegu (roughly, “Circassian festival“) in the Russian republics of Adygeia, Karachaevo-Cherkesia, and Kabardino-Balkaria. They chart the history of the adyge jegu after 2005, elucidate debates over the meaning of authenticity in contemporary Circassian nationalism, and provide a detailed archaeology of the specific decisions that enabled this cultural artifact to get constructed in one way but not another. While attention typically focuses on elite-driven narratives of border security and terrorism, the adyge jegu highlights grassroots debates over the meaning of right behavior, the boundaries of communal identity, and alternatives to Russianness in either its russkii or rossiiskii varieties.

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4. There is no widely accepted method for transliterating Circassian (Adyge, Adiga). Georges Dumézil and John Colarusso have devised phonemic inventories, but these are likely to be confusing to nonlinguists. Our transcription is a rough-and-ready spelling in Latin script based on Russian transliteration rules. The exceptions are our use of ‘ for the glottal stop and the Latin “j” for the sound normally transliterated as “dzh.“

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