A Political Ecology of Emotion and Displacement in Georgia’s Abandoned Soviet Spas

Dr. Ariel Otruba, Moravian University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania  

July 23, 2021 at 6:00-7:30 PM Tbilisi Time (10:00 AM EDT)  

During the Soviet era hundreds of thousands of people traveled to bathe in the radon-carbonate springs of the resort town of Tskaltubo, Georgia. No longer operational after the collapse of the USSR, the decomposing remains of this once-luxurious Soviet spa town became a refuge for thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict from the early 1990s. After over a quarter of a century, this displacement has been anything but temporary. Many continue to inhabit the ruins of these neoclassical sanatoriums despite recent plans for economic redevelopment. This research project brings a feminist attention to the threat of dispossession and the temporal dispersion of war’s capacity to harm over an elongated time horizon. Contributing to the emotional turn in political ecology scholarship on slow violence, this presentation will emphasize the importance of community-based photographic participatory research (CBPR). It will discuss how methods such as photovoice can be used to ethically capture the impact of decay and disrepair on the personhood, dignity, and futurity of conflict-affected populations.

Ariel Otruba, Ph.D. is a recipient of the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC) Junior Research Fellowship. This fellowship is supported with a grant from the US Department of Education. Dr. Otruba is a feminist political geographer, conflict resolution practitioner, and anti-trafficking advocate. After completing her Ph.D. in Geography at Rutgers University, she began teaching in the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Moravian University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on the violent and uncertain geographies of conflict-affected populations in Georgia. She also uses ecofeminist and post/decolonial theory to study political ecologies of slow violence and power asymmetries within more-than-human contact zones.

This talk is organized as a part of ARISC Online Event Series that showcase the work of ARISC fellows. ARISC does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, physical or mental disability, medical condition, ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, citizenship, or status as a covered veteran.