I A G O K A C H K A C H I S H V I L I
My basic university education goes back to Philosophy and my first PhD thesis (‘Peculiarities of Intuitive Knowledge’, 1991) was based on Philosophy of Life theories. Due to practical reasons (getting a job!) I started my first job at the Department of Sociology of Tbilisi State University. Accordingly, I was ‘forced’ to switch to the study of social problems and different social theoretical paradigms. At the beginning, such a shift seemed to my philosophical reason (mind) as kind of dehumanisation, though very soon I discovered that with sociology and study of social problems I became closer to everyday life of different social groups in society and to myself … Then our Department started developing social work programmes (with support of EU) and my interest has been distributed to narrower problems related to various vulnerable groups. And It became clear to me that these two disciplines – sociology and social work – can go together very well in terms of sharing methodological instruments and analytical frameworks. Hence, for around 10 years I am facing the charm of this collaboration.
I chose Tamada because …
… in many respects, it reminds me of a person having status of social worker.
Who is ‘Tamada’? He is a person who leads the so-called ‘Supra’ – a formalised festive meal (banquet). ‘Supra’ is an essential part of Georgian tradition, always accompanied by the ritual of making toasts by a toastmaster, who is the ‘Tamada’. Such festive meals can be organised around weddings, birthdays, funerals, certain anniversaries, etc. Toasts are a kind of structural unit of ‘Supra’, and ‘Tamada’ serves as the driving force of this living structure. It can be said that ‘Tamada’ is an informal profession and repeated practices (performances) of toast-making for different occasions have established the institution of ‘toastmastering’.
According to the nature of specific events (for instance, wedding, funerals, etc.), ‘Tamada’ has to follow a more or less rigid order of toasts: some topics are obligatory (like a toast to the parents or those who passed away in the family), and some toasts cannot be performed prior to others. As a rule, the initiator of the toasts is ‘Tamada’ and each toast should be shared and expanded by other members of ‘Supra’. In this ritual it is not accepted to drink alcohol without relating it to a toast, i.e. to the particular topic directed by ‘Tamada’. It should be mentioned also that particular artefacts such as drinking-horns and other ritual drinking-vessels are used.
Features of ‘Tamada’ which make him similar to social worker:
- ‘Tamada’ is not a pure ruler (dictator); he is rather a moderator, making initiatives (‘toasts’), preventing tension and conflicts, addressing issues from one participant to another, etc.
- ‘Tamada’ intervenes in cases where a conflict emerges among participants.
- ‘Tamada’ is a leader, whose obligation is to give the right (positive) direction to an event; he becomes a kind of a pattern, which is considered valuable enough to be followed.
- ‘Tamada’ should be a qualified, skilful person (he has to be a charismatic personality, communicative, expressing himself in a convincing way, be logical and creative, accomplish a therapy function to those who are alienated and feel like strangers).
- ‘Tamada’ has to be a dilettante (in a positive way); that means that he has to have certain knowledge in different directions (history, poetry, literature, etc.), like social worker who should be a bit of everything – psychologist, lawyer, physician, sociologist, etc.
- ‘Tamada’ should follow the event (case) up to the end, he does not have a right to escape.
Features of ‘Tamada’ which make him different to social worker:
- ‘Tamada’ is an exclusively male profession (with some rare exceptions)
- ‘Tamada’ performs with everybody and does not focus on vulnerable people.
- ‘Tamada’ is an actor who can play (accomplish) a role, without ‘living’ in this role, whereas social worker should not become an ‘outsider’ of what he/she does. (Simply saying: a bad person can be a good ‘Tamada’, though never a good social worker).