Virtual WiP: Buildings as Palimpsests – Commodification of Nostalgia in Tbilisi

CRRC, ARISC and American Councils are pleased to announce the 2nd talk of the Spring 2022 Tbilisi Works-in-Progress series!

****Given the continuing COVID situation, the Works-in-Progress sessions will continue in virtual format until further notice. To register for the event and automatically receive the Zoom info, click on the link below


“Buildings as Palimpsests: Commodification of Nostalgia in Tbilisi

By Ketevan Gurchiani, Ilia State University

Date: 23 February 2022, at 18:30 Tbilisi time

This project looks at the production and commodification of nostalgia based on the example of one building in Tbilisi. Through archival research and ethnographic analysis, it explores how the architecture of a house on Toradze Lane could accommodate different uses because of its eclecticism. The project looks at this building over the course of decades as a bundle with “affordances” and “constraints”: at certain times the former are actualized while the latter are muted. In this complex entanglement, a “make-believe space” is created in which an atmosphere of nostalgia can be commodified and sold. In creating a perfect site of nostalgia, such houses are often robbed of their primary function as residences. Their emptiness, especially visible during the time of the pandemic, stands in stark contrast to the role they are assumed to perform as the diverse, open, accessible Tbilisi courtyard of the nostalgic imagination. Reading the different layers of the building as a palimpsest, this project looks at this house, one of the many with a similar fate, as a chronotope in which different temporalities and spatialities intersect. In the complex time-space entanglement, the time represented by the building multiplies itself, producing a heterotopia that is not localizable on a spatial or chronological axis, but that still palpably exists.

Ketevan Gurchiani is Professor in Anthropology at Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia. Her special interests include lived religion, the domesticated and undomesticated nature of the city, and informal practices of resistance. Since 2020 Ketevan Gurchiani is leading the “Tbilisi as an Urban Assemblage” project which explores different aspects of human-nonhuman entanglement in the city. Starting from 2021, Prof. Gurchiani is also involved in the “An Anthropology of Gardens ‘Otherwise and Elsewhere’” project (principal investigator Paul Manning). Her latest publications include “Baptizing into Kin. Religion and Peace in a Multi-ethnic Village in Georgia” (Journal of Religion in Europe, 2021) and “The Hidden Resistance of Trees” (forthcoming in 2022 in Covert Resistance in Democratic Societies, edited by Ferdinand Sutterlüty & Almut Poppinga of the Institut for Social Research, Frankfurt am Main).Tbilisi as an Urban Assemblage website:

Although this presentation will take place in virtual format, in observation of the spirit of the Chatham House Rule to which the series generally adheres, the talk will not be recorded and we courteously request that the other participants refrain from recording and/or distributing it as well. The opinions expressed in WiP talks are those of the speakers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC, ARISC or of American Councils.

WiP is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that normally takes place at the new office of CRRC at Liziko Kavtaradze St. 1. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.