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Where the Sidewalk Ends: Automobility and Shame in Tbilisi, Georgia

By Perry Maxfield Waldman Sherouse

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Cite As:
Sherouse, Perry. 2018. “Where the Sidewalk Ends: Automobility and Shame in Tbilisi, Georgia”. Cultural Anthropology 33 (3), 444-72. https://doi.org/10.14506/ca33.3.07.

Abstract

In recent years, cars have steadily colonized the sidewalks in downtown Tbilisi. By driving and parking on sidewalks, vehicles have reshaped public space and placed pedestrian life at risk. A variety of social actors coordinate sidewalk affairs in the city, including the local government, a private company called CT Park, and a fleet of self-appointed st’aianshik’ebi (parking attendants) who direct drivers into parking spots for spare change. Pedestrian activists have challenged the automotive conquest of footpaths in innovative ways, including art installations, social media protests, and the fashioning of ad hoc physical barriers. By safeguarding sidewalks against cars, activists assert ideals for public space that are predicated on sharp boundaries between sidewalk and street, pedestrian and machine, citizen and commodity. Politicians and activists alike connect the sharpness of such boundaries to an imagined Europe. Georgia’s parking culture thus reflects not only local configurations of power among the many interests clamoring for the space of the sidewalk, but also global hierarchies of value that form meaningful distinctions and aspirational horizons in debates over urban public space. Against the dismal frictions of an expanding car system, social actors mobilize the idioms of freedom and shame to reinterpret and repartition the public/private distinction.

Keywords

infrastructure; shame; pedestrianism; parking culture; sidewalks; Georgia; postsocialism