Strolling along the Sukhum waterfront: leisure as the attainment of a normal everyday life in a post-war partially recognized country
Paper short abstract:
In post-war Sukhum, Abkhazia, strolling along the Black Sea waterfront has come to hold symbolic and political value for the inhabitants of the city, being considered proof of their capacity to be able to reconstruct a normal everyday life, despite the country's unfavourable political status.
Paper long abstract:
For the inhabitants of Sukhum, Abkhazia, the Black Sea shore stands for a border with the wider world which does not recognize the country, bringing forth a sense of isolation and a constant awareness of the uncertainty of its future. The Sukhum waterfront consists of an eclectic mix of buildings still bearing signs of the war and of the post-war neglect standing next to recently opened shops and cafes affordable only for a minority of its strollers. However, strolling along the waterfront, while participating in gossiping and casual conversations, is considered a popular leisure activity undertaken by almost everybody, irrespective of social status, age and gender, and the quintessential sense of achievement of a normal everyday life in post-war Abkhazia.
By engaging in a leisure activity on the backdrop of the rich symbolism of the waterfront people that I worked with are engaged in attributing new political meanings to their everyday leisure practices: that despite being left out by the wider world or even by their own politicians, they have managed to enjoy their lives on their own terms. Focusing on leisure practices and the ordinary flow in the everyday is part of a continuous struggle to counter the internalized negative view through which Abkhazians/Sukhumians feel they are perceived by outsiders: as a dangerous place whose inhabitants are passive receivers of geopolitical events.
Streetscapes: affective encounters between People and Things