UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Male Friendship and Honor on the Birzhas of Tbilisi

21 October 2020–22 October 2020, 5:00 pm–6:30 pm


Join us for this event part of PPV (Perverting the Power Vertical: Politics and Aesthetics in the Global East) - A SSEES FRINGE Centre Seminar Series

This event is free.

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Tbilisi birzhas are associated not only with tough guys, street code and the obsession with sunflower seeds, but also with dzmakatsoba – the specific form of male friendship.

When discussing dzmakatsoba with Georgians you can often hear that with its special high values and obligations of friends to each other this form of friendship is unparalleled in other cultures.  From the case of dzmakatsoba we learn how friendship may resemble kin relations, become subjected to ideology and act as an instrument of social status and control.

Throughout October PPV will be looking at 'Birzhastation' - inspired by the Georgian practice of birzha, a type of informal gathering in public space - interrogates neo-liberal ideologies of architectural transparency in the post-socialist world (and in the global “wild capitalist” reality of the 21st century). Named in a fiddly, imaginative cocktail of Georgian, Russian and  English, Birzhastation provides an archi-ethnographic exploration of the possibilities and pitfalls of fine ideas (transparency, openness, horizontality, togetherness, the commonness) in a time of an ideological crisis, amid a global rise of the new types of militarized police regimes. While in many countries of the world we are still naively enamored by architectural transparency as a metaphor of political openness and economic honesty, in Tbilisi (in part, perhaps, as a result of former President Saakashvili's failed attempt to combat police corruption and brutality by decreeing the construction all-glass police stations) people are equipped with a more cautious mindset. 

About the Speaker

Evgenia Zakharova

Evgenia Zakharova is a researcher at the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (the Kunstkamera), Russian Academy of Sciences. In 2017 she obtained her doctoral degree in anthropology with her dissertation entitled "Men's Neighborhood Communities of Tbilisi: structure and functioning," which discusses the Georgian street as a social, political, and legal phenomenon".