Lofty Ideals in Aerial Connectivity: Ideology in the Urban Cable Car Network of Tbilisi, Georgia
Seminar with Dr. Dato Gogishvili (Postdoc at Dept. of Urban Studies, Malmö University)
When: May 4, 13.30-15.00
Where: Zoom online platform (link in Zoom: https://mau-se.zoom.us/j/65183900856)
This article (in collaboration with Suzanne Harris-Brandts, Department of Urban Studies + Planning, MIT) examines the ten-line cable car network of Tbilisi, Georgia,constructed between 1953 and 1988, then decommissioned in the 1990s and partially reactivated since 2012. During the Soviet era, Tbilisi’s cable cars played an important role in the city’s mass mobility, particularly in areas of steep geography. They also functioned ideologically, supporting Soviet ambitions toward the collective provision of public transportation and accessto recreational spacefor the working proletariat. This article unpacks such ideology, chartingits evolution over the network’s sixty-year timeline. It describes the ideological shifts that took place following the collapse of the Soviet Union and Georgia’s transition to a capitalist economy. Specifically, it explores how Tbilisi’s cable car network is linked to changes in government urban development priorities and desires to create tourism attractions, while also reinforcing select framings of the surrounding landscape. The newly introduced cable car lines of the 21st centurynow reflect contemporary ideological goals that see cable cars as assets for luring global capital and facilitating the commodification of Tbilisi’s historic cityscape. The article thus argues that the city’s cable car network can be understood as embodying changes in government stances toward labor, leisure, and the direction of future development, while further reflecting the mobility politics of the city. The findings are based on personal interviews and historic document analysis, as well as transit ridership and City Hall data that collectively provide an evaluation of Tbilisi’s cable car network as it has transformed since the 1950s.
David received his doctoral degree in Urban Studies and Regional Science at Gran Sasso Science Institute in 2017 where he studied the state use of mega-events as a tool for urban development and the imposition of legal exceptions onto host cities. Subsequently, he joined the University of Lausanne as a postdoctoral researcher where he studied the impact of megaprojects in the urban development of Kazakhstan. Currently, he is a postdoc at the Department of Urban Studies at Malmö University where he is carrying out a research project scrutinizing the role of legal exceptions in urban planning for the realization of the real estate megaprojects in Georgia and its surrounding governmental discourses. David’s research interests include interrelation of mega-events and legal exceptions, mega-events and urban image construction, mega-event related urban policy mobilities and the use of mega-events as a tool of urban development in Central Asia and the South Caucasus. David is also a principal researcher in the Shota Rustaveli Georgian National Science Foundation-funded project “Examining the Social Impacts of Large, Private Sector Urban Development in Batumi and Tbilisi”.