Rebecca Gould‘s Writers and Rebels: Literature of Insurgency in the Caucasus (Yale University Press, 2016) is the first existing comparative study of Chechen, Dagestani...

Rebecca Gould‘s Writers and Rebels: Literature of Insurgency in the Caucasus (Yale University Press, 2016) is the first existing comparative study of Chechen, Dagestani and Georgian literatures and a major contribution to the study of the cultures of the Caucasus. The book examines literary representations of anticolonial violence in the Caucasus across more than a century-long period of time. The monographs central focus is on the figure of abrek (bandit), prominent across all three national literatures under scrutiny. Gould explores the figure of abrek through the prism of what she calls “transgressive sanctity” –“the process though which sanctity is made transgressive and transgression is made sacred through violence against the state.” Through this process, violence is aesthetisized and aesthetics is endowed with the capacity to generate violence. Of particular interest is Gould’s approach to the study of violence an investigation in which, she suggests, literature can and should play a central role.

Writers and Rebels is based on eight years of fieldwork, and the reading and analysis of many previously untapped sources, in particular, the Arabic-language texts from Dagestan. This local literacy and the diversity of sources allows Gould to challenge the postulates of existing theoretical frameworks, such as postcolonialism as it applies to the studies of the Caucasus, and search for new scholarly trajectories which take into account the utter cultural and linguistic diversity of the region.


Olga Breininger is a PhD candidate in Slavic and Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. Her research interests include post-Soviet culture and geopolitics, with a special focus on Islam, nation-building, and energy politics. Olga is the author of the novel There Was No Adderall in the Soviet Union and columnist at Literratura.

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