Symbolic treasure, care, and materiality in Upper Svaneti

Title: Symbolic treasure, care, and materiality in Upper Svaneti
Variant title:
  • Symbolický poklad, péče a materialita v Horní Svanetii
Source document: Convivium. 2023, vol. 10, iss. Supplementum 2, pp. [208]-[225]
  • ISSN
    2336-3452 (print)
    2336-808X (online)
Type: Article
Summary language
License: Not specified license
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Ethnographic material collected over several years, as well as archival and historical research, sheds light on the role and power of the religious artifacts stored in the villages of Upper Svaneti. By focusing on the ways in which the Svans claim ownership of, attend to, and talk about their material culture, this paper challenges the dominant paradigm of national heritage to which the national state is usually deemed absolutely entitled. To the contrary, the authors argue that the sacred objects housed in Svaneti's churches are sensed as what, in anthropological literature, appear as objects with subjectivities. Such objects are treated, instead of being viewed as passive in their materiality, as entities with agentive powers of their own. Apart from showing the social life of the material wealth that Svans call gandzi, the analysis demonstrates that its agentive power in fact goes beyond Svans' religious beliefs and consists of much more than precious artifacts kept in churches and museums. This conceptualization of gandzi is rooted, on the one hand, in an ethnographically immersed perspective and, on the other, on the theoretical tradition that places materiality at the center of political ecology.