Old Tbilisi (1850-1917)
The Colonial City
Russian colonial rule divided the city spatially into an “Oriental” or “Asiatic” city of Persian gardens, bazaars, taverns, caravanserais, and bathhouses, and an emergent "European" city of boulevards, theatres, the Viceroy’s Palace, salons, cafes, clubs, and European gardens. Here we explore how quotidian and festive practices and even genres of music and poetry became classified according to where they were spatially cultivated.
Colonial Tiflis in the long 19th century
The emergent material semiotic division between the winding streets of the old city and the broad straight boulevards of the Russian sections immediately call to mind many other similar emergent divisions within a range of colonial contexts. Here we situate the specificities of the material semiotics of the "divided city" of the colonial city of Tiflis within a broader literature on the material semiotic contrasts of other colonial cities ( Gilsenan 1982, Abu-Lughod 1987, Mitchell 1991, Rabinow 1995, Kaviraj 1997, Çelik 1997, 1999). Here we ask the following questions: How does the materiality of the colonial city invite both aspirational fantasies of Europeanization as well as provoke a sense of abjection by invidious comparison of the existing city with its European models?How do the emergent oppositions between parallel architectures and infrastructures of sociability (gardens, parks; streets, boulevards; taverns, clubs) afford the parallel development of Orientalist binaries of "European" and "Oriental" genres and quotidian forms of behavior? We also explore how two print cultures jostled side by side within the same city and sometimes on the pages of a single newspaper, each involving specifically urban genres pointing to different visions of the city, on the one hand a popular print culture centering on increasingly nostalgic images of festivities in the gardens of Tbilisi in Persianate genres of poetry, on the other serialized European feuilletons which took the heterogeneity of the city as the object of their flaneuresque digressive narratives (cf. Tester 1987).