UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Open Discussion (Birzha) moderated by Misha Svanidze

25 October 2020, 4:00 pm–5:30 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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In Soviet times, when all social life was dominated by official ideology, birzha - a physical place of gathering in the neighborhood - often played the role of an informal public sphere, where not only events of daily life were discussed, but also popular political and social attitudes, tastes and new knowledge were formed. Sometimes birzhas were the only places where “common sense” could be found. In our effort to contribute to the creation of new knowledge, we will address maybe the most important question of our politics – whether we can change 30-year-long paradigm of neoliberal dictatorship. 

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

Mikheil Svanidze

Mikheil Svanidze is a sociologist from Tbilisi. He has studied Sociology at Tbilisi State University and obtained a Master’s degree in Social Anthropology from the Central European University. His research interests include public space, social movements, inequality, mobility and politics at large in post-socialist context. Methods-wise Mikheil positions himself as an anthropologist with extensive qualitative fieldwork expertise. Currently he is working towards his PhD thesis on production and reproduction of urban inequality in Georgia as seen through the lens of Tbilisi’s formal and informal transport systems.