Category Archives: Post-Socialist

Human Devils: Affects and Specters of Alterity in Eerie Cities of Georgia

Human Devils: Affects and Spectres of Alterity in Eerie Cities of Georgia
Tamta Khalvashi and Paul Manning  
2021 
In Modern Folk Devils: Contemporary Constructions of Evil, edited by M. D. Frederiksen and I. Harboe Knudsen, 63–79.
Helsinki: Helsinki University Press

Introduction
Ghosts and ghoulies were once prematurely pronounced dead with the arrival of electrical lights and modernity. Yet, in the wake of what Roger Luckhurst has called the ‘spectral turn’ (2002), inspired by Derrida’s Spectres of Marx (1994), they have made quite a comeback in theoretical circles, and in urban studies in particular. Unlike traditional ghosts, however, these ghosts are usually treated as metaphoric spirits, with more kinship to the Hegelian spirit, an invisible force (similar to capitalism) advancing world history, than the spirits of folklore, implying the animating force of nature.1 “eir haunting thus is very abstract, acting very generally to destabilize all categories of dwelling, presence and totalized urban planning. In this way, the ghost, already a somewhat indeterminate kind of spirit, is reduced to an eerie !gure of ‘spectral modernity’ (Luckhurst 2002, 528). Spectral modernity offers a period in which ‘time is out of joint’, incarnating the uncanny return of the repressed, where the !gure of the ghost is both present and absent. Ghosts can thus be encountered at every turn in the city as a way of capturing the relationship between particular a#ects of haunting and particular kinds of places. Hence, unlike the ‘folk devils’ that are marked by political power or media as speci!c social groups threatening societal values and interests (Cohen 2011 [1972]), here devils and ghosts, instead, appear in their traditional and folkloric forms in the city. “ey surface in times of changing societal and physical structures while creating anxieties and doubts about the present. As such, these ghosts and spirits are both concrete and yet metaphysical. “is chapter is about spectral hauntings in Georgian cities. We argue that some Georgian goblins, just like the cities they dwell in, are experienced as eerie not solely metaphorically but literally. “ere are fascinating ethnographies of devils emerging metaphorically or symbolically in various Georgian cities and semi-urban contexts, such as devils of the refugee camps (Dunn 2018), the persistence of criminal devils in Batumi (Frederiksen 2013), or new elites as devils (Manning 2009, 2014). Yet, none of these ethnographies deal with devils from folklore that become !gures of human alterity in the city, migrating from rural to urban environments to appear as real human beings. In doing so, we argue that human devils produce similar a#ects as Georgian cities, some of which appear empty, half-!nished or broken (Khalvashi 2019). While ghosts are usually considered ex-people who have entered the ghostly estate, Georgian goblins were never originally people. “ey were originally goblins or devils, but in the process of urbanization and modernization terms for goblins became ‘slangy’ terms for kinds of strange people created by sudden urban changes (Manning 2014). “e Georgian goblins, in this sense, are radically di#erent from Western ghosts in that, as non-humans, they might at some point become humans. Western ghosts operate in the opposite manner: generally they are humans who attain a condition that is monstrously opposed to humanity. Georgian goblins hence are a fascinating point of departure. “ey demonstrate how Georgian cities are haunted by spectres of alterity that are felt by their residents to be eerie. As urban geographer Steve Pile puts it, It is easy enough, I think, to see how certain feelings – and their ghostly presences – might appear in cities. Of course, people feel things and if those people are in cities, then they are going to feel them there. And, just as surely, cities might make people feel things: all those strangers, all those dark alleyways, and all those stories of violence. But this hardly means that cities are ghostly – and it certainly doesn’t mean that we have a sixth sense in our encounters with places, does it? (Pile 2005, 243) At the core of spectral modernity then is the eerie sensations produced by speci!c urban spaces. “

More Here

City as a geopolitics: Tbilisi, Georgia — A globalizing metropolis in a turbulent region

City as a Geopolitics: Tbilisi, Georgia — A Globalizing Metropolis in a Turbulent Region

Open Access

JosephSalukvadze  and OlegGolubchikov

Highlights
*Tbilisi has been strategically positioned at the intersection of major geopolitical interests in the South Caucasus.
*Transition to a market democracy has been a painful period, causing ethnical homogenisation and economic impoverishment.
*In the wake of economic recovery, state government has focused on flagship projects and urban regeneration.
*Old Tbilisi is losing its heritage due to historic buildings’ replacement and gentrification.
*There is a growing demand for a new kind of relationship between the city and the citizens.

ABSTRACT
Tbilisi, a city of over a million, is the national capital of Georgia. Although little explored in urban studies, the city epitomizes a fascinating assemblage of processes that can illuminate the interplay of geopolitics, political choices, globalization discourses, histories, and urban contestations in shaping urban transformations. Tbilisi’s strategic location in the South Caucasus, at the juncture of major historical empires and religions in Eurasia, has ensured its turbulent history and a polyphony of cultural influences. Following Georgia’s independence in 1991, Tbilisi found itself as the pivot of Georgian nation-building. Transition to a market economy also exposed the city to economic hardship, ethnical homogenization, and the informalization of the urban environment. The economic recovery since the early 2000s has activated urban regeneration. Georgia’s government has recently promoted flagship urban development projects in pursuit of making Tbilisi as a modern globalizing metropolis. This has brought contradictions, such as undermining the city’s heritage, contributing to socio-spatial polarization, and deteriorating the city’s public spaces. The elitist processes of decision-making and a lack of a consistent urban policy and planning regimes are argued to be among major impediments for a more sustainable development of this city.

A Display of Informal Architecture

A Display of Informal Architecture: New Documentary on the Ukrainian Makeshift Balconies Phenomenon

Taking advantage of a lack of governmental regulations, many Ukrainians turn to their balconies to compensate for the shortage of space in prefab-Soviet housing, rebuilding them in a variety of shapes and sizes. The short documentary Enter Through The Balcony explores this phenomenon in Ukrainian architecture, revealing a compelling image of post-Soviet history through local everyday life and culture.

In addition to showcasing a unique attitude towards private versus public space, the makeshift balconies phenomenon is also a symptom of the dramatic pendulum swing from mass uniformity and anonymity, to freedom of expression and ownership of private space, which shaped attitudes and architectures across the former Eastern bloc after 1991.

Across Central and Eastern Europe, the socialist political regime manifested itself architecturally through mass standardization, expansive collective housing estates, and a specific architectural expression, defined today as socialist modernism. The informal architecture that sparked around this type of architecture in Ukraine (as well as elsewhere) reflects the complicated relationship of the individuals with this architectural heritage, a symbol of an equally convoluted past. The Ukrainian makeshift balconies phenomenon also highlights the shortages of the housing schemes developed in the period between 1955 and 1991.

More Here

Informality and Social Embeddedness in Marshrutak Transport

Theorising informality and social embeddedness for the study of informal transport. Lessons from the marshrutka mobility phenomenon

 

By LelaRekhviashvili and WladimirSgibnev

Journal of Transport Geography

15 January 2019

Abstract

“This paper builds upon recent post-structuralist writings on informal economic practices, using most importantly a Polanyian institutionalist framework, to discuss formal/informal and market/non-market practices in the transport sector. The article proposes a critical reading of the literary canon of informal transport, which largely assumes a naturalness and omnipresence of markets. We illustrate how reductionist definitions of informal transport marginalise analytically important empirical detail, and furthermore, lead to misleading theoretical conclusions. In contrast, we analytically de-couple informality and markets, showing that formal and informal economic practices can be embedded in diverse social-cultural institutions. Such a theoretical framework allows for consistent evaluation and empirical examination of transport options, as substantiated by evidence from the marshrutka mobility phenomenon in Bishkek and Tbilisi. We observe marketisation, dis- or re-embedding, formalisation and informalisation as dynamic, inter-dependent and conflictual processes. On these grounds, the article argues for a critical re-appraisal of other forms of informal transport, old and emerging, both in the Global South and the Global North.”

Keywords

Informality
Social embeddedness
Marshrutka
Marketisation
Polanyi
Ride-sharing

 

Marshrutka Stories A Visual Archive

The Marshrutka Project
Marshrutka Stories A Visual Archive

“It is hard to study marshrutkas. ey are elusive; there are no clear criteria on what a marshrutka is or on what a marshrutka is not. They differ by color, size, and shape. They differ in whom they serve, who drives them, who owns them, who governs them. They differ in the ways they operate, the way routes are laid out, the way they are standardised. Rules of behaviour in a marshrutka also dier. They are quietly codified, not easy to comprehend, requiring familiarity and insiders’ knowledge. ey change, adjust, and adapt quickly. ey shrink and expand, they occupy public space but at points become invisible. ey simultaneously enable and confront. ey signify diverse, and at points contradictory, things for different people at different times. ey have been markers of the decay of Soviet infrastructure and of a Soviet vision of modernity. They have also signfied a new entrepreneurial spirit of capitalist modernity, of flexibility, freedom of choice, and the power of consumer demand. They have been demonized for being pre-modern, unruly, overcrowded and dangerous, while simultaneously representing locally divergent forms of solidarity, sociability, reciprocity, and sharing.”

Here

Tbilisi’s Rose Revolution Square

Tbilisi’s Rose Revolution Square: a Political Showcase

By TINATIN GURGENIDZE and SEBASTIAN WEBER

Published in FA – Failed Architecture

Georgia’s changing political orientation has been continuously reflected in the dynamics of its capital’s former Republic Square: from military parades, to soviet relics and a vertical refugee camp, to sanitised commercial functions.

In the centre of Tbilisi lies the Rose Revolution Square, named after Georgia’s Rose Revolution of 2003. The place has changed a lot during the past decades, but still retained its character as an important part of the city. On the sunny 26th of May in 1995, the Georgian air force planes created a spectacle for the crowd that had gathered for Independence Day. Still called Republic Square back then, the square itself was also the setting for a military parade in celebration of the Georgia’s independence, which it gained shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Although the air still contained the strange scent of war on that day in 1995 after a severe civil war, the young independent country was rejoicing. Yet, right in front of the audience stood the run-down Hotel Iveria, which was now home to over 800 Abkhazian refugees as a silent reminder of the recent conflicts. In fact, that very place had been a battlefield only a few years earlier.

Tbilisi’s Rose Revolution Square: a Political Showcase

Republic Square during a Soviet parade in the mid 1980s.

Almost two decades later, the square is mostly home to noisy traffic and vast empty spaces. The hotel has been emptied of the refugee squat, had a modern renovation and now belongs to the Radisson group. While the square is geographically exactly the same, a lot has changed. The place is not only one of Tbilisi’s few public squares, it is also arguably the place where the political and social transformation are most deeply reflected in urban space and architecture. Here, the country’s and the city’s recent past and present are visibly mixing, creating an absurd, mostly unused transitory space in the heart of town.

The story goes back to 1960´s, when Soviet Georgia was one of the top tourist destinations of the USSR. In 1967, the construction of the tallest building in Tbilisi was finished: Hotel Iveria, a 22 storey high structure designed by the Georgian architect Otar Kalandarishvili in the very geographical centre of Tbilisi and well visible from every point of the city. This prestigious Hotel was clearly not accessible to everyone. In order to book a room one had to make a reservation several months in advance through the official travel agency of the Soviet Union “Intourist”. Only the lucky ones would be able to stay in one of the rooms with a great view overlooking the entire town. Along with the hotel Mr. Kalandarishvili also designed the square in front of the hotel, which was finished much later, in 1983. As described by the architect himself at the time: “In the centre of the city, one of Tbilisi’s most important squares will be established by levelling an existing dip. The so created space underneath the square will contain more than 20 thousand square meters of useful space on three levels that will be used to create a social-cultural centre”.

More Here

Tbilisi from Safavid Persia to Postsocialism

The city of Tbilisi, current capital of the country of Georgia, experienced a turbulent set of changes at the dawn of the modern period, from little more than a mass of ruins in 1795 to the 19th-century political center of the Russian Caucasus to 20th-century capital of Georgia.  This project seeks to understand cities as intrinsically heterogeneous and historically layered objects: many places in one.  Cities are therefore intrinsically “multiple objects” inviting multiple readings.  Our website will treat Tbilisi as an “urban assemblage”, composed of heterogeneous networks of human and nonhuman elements and actors. From these heterogeneous materials and actors are assembled and stabilized “imagined cities”: the traditional “Middle Eastern” city, the divided city of colonialism, the modernist city of infrastructures, the socialist “cultured” city and postsocialist cities haunted by past and future.
To study such an intrinsically heterogeneous object is required an equally heterogeneous approach,  which renders objects as diverse as literary images of the city and material infrastructures comparable and commensurable within stable “urban assemblages”. Following the grant narrative, this website will divide Tbilisi into five such distinct periods: the maps will be linked to each period.

The City of Balconies: Tbilisi

The City of Balconies: elite politics and the changing semiotics of the post-socialist cityscape

Paul Manning

My first experience of Tbilisi was in the spring of 1992, a few short months after the coup that ousted the first post-socialist government of Zviad Gamsakhurdia. It also leveled much of a historic portion of the downtown area.  The general who had led the coup, Tengiz Kitovani, had been a sculptor in the socialist period.  As a result, the devastated downtown region became known jokingly at the time as ‘Kitovani’s exhibition’.
The coup against Gamsakhurdia was transformative in its effects on the Georgian city not only in the plastic arts, but also socially.  The emergent political divide between Anti- and Pro-Gamsakhurdia (‘Zviadist’) orientations often boiled down to the inherited cultural division between Tbiliseli ‘Tbilisian’ and provincial Georgian villagers.  The nationalist Gamsakhurdia government’s support was strongest amongst present or erstwhile Georgian villagers, whilst old urbanites, and the urban intelligentsia in particular, ranged themselves against the new government.
The 1992 coup was also a family feud within the socialist intelligentsia: A philologist-dissident-turned-president ousted by a sculptor-turned-general (Kitovani) and a criminal-turned-writer-turned-warlord (Jaba Ioseliani), the coup illustrated emergent and opposed tendencies within the socialist intelligentsia. Different self-conceptions of the urban intelligentsia were, as it were, incarnated in the figures who led this coup.  On the one hand, the coup, in which a sculptor-turned-general ousted a philologist-turned-president, illustrates a public, exoteric, battle over the self-definition of the intelligentsia, an essentially urban, elitist intelligentsia (represented by Kitovani) turning against a provincial or provincializing one (represented by Gamsakhurdia).  On the other hand, the presence of a unique ‘hybrid’, Jaba Ioseliani, a well-known criminal (‘thief of the law’, Georgian  k’anonieri kurdi, Russian vor v zakone) breaking the criminal laws of non-engagement with public political life, who was himself also a writer and intelligent turned paramilitary leader, gives the coup another hidden, esoteric dimension.  Here urban life and the intelligentsia is characterized not as a public apotheosis of national culture (dividing the intelligentsia from the people as urban to rural, but reuniting them within the framework of the nation), but as an urban bohemian subculture, stressing the opposition between the intelligentsia and the people, private urban subculture and public national culture.

More Here