Joseph Sparsbrod: Everyday Life in Old Tbilisi. Exploration of Cohabitation in a Multiethnic Neighborhood in Tbilisi
In the past decades the Georgian capital faced radical changes. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the following unrest, the establishment of a market economy and the Rose Revolution might be the most profound events in the life of Tbilisi's inhabitants. The historic center, in its actual state, was socially produced according to the respective socioeconomic, political and cultural conditions. The area was labeled as “Old Tbilisi” – a catchphrase connected to a multitude of meanings and imaginations, e.g. beautiful, historic, but often neglect houses and close relations between the mostly poor neighbors. In my ongoing dissertation project I want to show how this space (on the example of one street) is socially produced by different groups according to their socioeconomic, political and cultural resources. I pay special attention to the local community, as one important actor in this process.
On which social structures (e.g. kinship or neighborship) and practices (e.g. housing, appropriation and use of space, informal activities) can they rely on to deal with everyday challenges since the end of the Soviet Union? How are this structures and practices used, reshaped, changed and reinterpreted by the neighbors and what stake do they have in the social production of space? I will show how the neighborhood and the life of the neighbors is affected by the local, national and global socioeconomic, political and cultural environment. I will display the local's capacity to achieve their wishes and expectations and to cope with political, economic and social pressure. This throws light on how the neighborhood (as a material and social reality) is shaped (i.e. socially produced) by different groups and it will reveal the power relations which underlie this process. This is of interest since the genesis and state of “Old Tbilisi” is obscured or naturalized by different ideologies (e.g. State communism, nationalism, neo-liberalism) and their respective political, economic and cultural elites.