Jesse Swann-Quinn, More-than-human government and the Tbilisi zoo flood Geoforum, Volume 102, 2019,Pages 167-181,
On 17 June 2015, an unprecedented series of rain events caused a wall of water to tear through an affluent urban neighborhood in the Georgian capital Tbilisi. The flood damaged 700 homes, displaced 67 families, killed 19 people, left 3 more unaccounted for – while also leaving nearly 300 animals either drowned or killed as the flood destroyed the Soviet-era Tbilisi Zoo. Deadly and headline grabbing interactions among humans and non-humans continued surprising those in Tbilisi as diverse actors tried to control the precarious situation unfolding in this post-Soviet urban landscape, and survivors of all sorts roamed the streets. I illustrate these relationships by analyzing news coverage, government statements, technical reports, archival resources, and my own experiences as a participant observer within the events surrounding the flood. In doing so I extend arguments by Foucault and his interlocuters to present a case of more-than-human government, requiring the arrangement of non-human elements to maintain the life of a political population such as the Tbilisi citizenry. As I demonstrate, such governmental practices require not only calculations of what life to protect and what to destroy via sovereignty, discipline, and biopolitics, but also a constellation of other powers, including historically embedded regimes of truth and authority. From this perspective, the security of a human population may at times rely on its imbrication with the government of animals and infrastructure alike, and vice versa – by securing, disciplining, knowing, and at times destroying our material environments and companion species, however we may be related.
Keywords: More-than-human; Zoos; Flood; Post-Soviet; Government; Georgia