Rose-Colored Glasses? Color Revolutions and Cartoon Chaos in Postsocialist Georgia

Abstract

The Georgian "Rose Revolution" of 2003 was preceded by events in November 2001, in which students protested against a government raid on a popular TV station, Rustavi 2, and forced then-President Shevardnadze to request the resignation of the Georgian cabinet as the students demanded. This article describes these events in detail to show how political transition in Georgia has been carried out and exemplified by new political rhetorics and metarhetoric that expressly confronted entrenched logics of reception. The article illustrates how shifts in state formation, in postsocialist contexts in particular, are tied to shifts in representational modes.

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Editorial Footnotes

Cultural Anthropology has published a number of essays (see link below) that examine various forms and legacies of socialism. See, for example, Jessica Winegar's "Cultural Sovereignty in a Global Art Economy: Egyptian Cultural Policy and the New Western Interest in Art from the Middle East" (2006); Alexia Blochs's "Longing for the Kollektiv: Gender, Power, and Residential Schools in Central Siberia" (2005); Judith Farquhar and Qicheng Zhang's "Biopolitical Beijing: Pleasure, Sovereignty, and Self-Cultivation in China's Capital" (2005) and Alaina Lemon's "Your Eyes Are Green like Dollars": Counterfeit Cash, National Substance, and Currency Apartheid in 1990s Russia" (1998).

Cultural Anthropology has also published a number of essays that examine how political and media developments entwine. See, for example, Gregory Starrett's "Violence and the Rhetoric of Images" (2003); Ulf Hannerz's "Reporting from Jerusalem" (1998); and James H. McDonald's "Whose History? Whose Voice? Myth and Resistance in the Rise of the New Left in Mexico" (1993).

About the Author

Paul Manning is an assistant professor of anthropology at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. His essay will be particularly relevant to readers interested in postsocialism, in democratization movements, and in relationships between politics and media.

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Editorial Overview

In the latest issue of Cultural Anthropology (May 2007), Paul Manning revisits student protests in the Democratic Republic of Georgia to explore how shifts in state formations, particularly in postsocialist contexts, are tied to shifts in representational formations. His essay is titled "Rose Colored Glasses? Color Revolutions and Cartoon Chaos in Postsocialist Georgia."

Drawing on fieldwork in Tbilisi during 2001, Manning examines how student protestors appropriated images and logics from the widely viewed television cartoon Dardubala, a Simpsons-like satire of Georgian life. Dardubala provided caustic commentary on the regime of Eduard Shevardnadze, who came to power in the wake of the violent coup of 1991-2 and came to embody a "chaotic mode of domination." The 2001 protests, according to Manning, paved the way to Georgia's 2003 "Rose Revolution," a "velvet," non-violent revolution that led to the resignation of Shevardnadze and became the first in an "intertextual series of color revolutions" throughout the region. Manning attributes the success of the 2001 protests in Georgia to student protesters' creative approach to the deeply entrenched cynicism and paranoia that characterized Georgia in this period.

"Postsocialist Georgia, like Russia," Manning argues, "was characterized by a failed state and a collapsed economy that corresponded to a more general collapse of semiotic orders: political corruption and manipulation were matched by the falsification of products and inscrutability of advertisements and the general disappearance of orderly, sincere and "cultured" relationships between private persons." Students actively faced off with resulting logics of reception, consistently deploying metarhetorics of transparency, and performing their authenticity as civic actors -- demonstrating how regimes of politics, economics and semiosis interrelate.

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