Ethnographies of the State in Central Asia

Ethnographies of the State in Central Asia

Performing Politics
Edited by Madeleine Reeves, Johan Rasanayagam and Judith Beyer
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 01/10/2014
Format: Paperback 16 b&w illus., 1 map
ISBN: 978-0-253-01141-1
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With fresh and provocative insights into the everyday reality of politics in post-Soviet Central Asia, this volume moves beyond commonplaces about strong and weak states to ask critical questions about how democracy, authority, and justice are understood in this important region. In conversation with current theories of state power, the contributions draw on extensive ethnographic research in settings that range from the local to the transnational, the mundane to the spectacular, to provide a unique perspective on how politics is performed in everyday life.

Author Bio

Madeleine Reeves is Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester and editor of Movement, Power and Place in Central Asia and Beyond: Contested Trajectories.

Johan Rasanayagam is Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen and author of Islam in Post-Soviet Uzbekistan: The Morality of Experience.

Judith Beyer is Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and author of Kyrgyzstan: A Photoethnography of Talas.


“This is the first volume to seriously engage ethnographically with the political in Central Asia. It represents some of the best research ongoing in Central Asia and yields valuable insights into how ethnography contributes not only to understanding what matters to people, but to seeing how the performance of politics creates the state as theater with the population as both actor and audience. As a contribution to the ethnography of Central Asia, it is among the best; as a contribution to understanding politics in Central Asia, it is exceptional.”
 — David Montgomery, University of Pittsburgh

“By moving us away from the stream of commentaries on strong or weak states—categories that rarely question the nature of statehood itself but rather its seemingly uniform and universally perceived capacities—this excellent volume underscores the fact that sovereignty and state power are instead always works-in-progress, continually performed, projected, and morphing across time and space.”
 — Bruce Grant, New York University

“It is a rare edited volume that keeps readers moving from chapter to chapter like a single-author book, but that is precisely what Ethnographies of the State in Central Asia accomplishes.”
 — Central Asian Survey

“Ethnographies of the State in Central Asia is the right kind of edited volume. . . . it showcases the richness and diversity of the scholarship that is being carried out at the intersection of anthropology and science. The chapters . . . speak the same conceptual language, address each other's claims, and complement each other's insights. . . . The volume is enjoyable to read and largely jargon-free, meaning that it is suitable for assigning in an undergraduate course, but it is theoretically sophisticated enough that it will serve as a valuable source for graduate research as well. ”
 — Russian Review

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Performances, Possibilities, and Practices of the Political in Central Asia Johan Rasanayagam, Judith Beyer, and Madeleine Reeves

Part I. Staging the Political
1. The Global Performance State: A Reconsideration of the Central Asian "Weak State" John Heathershaw
2. Dialogic Authority: Kazakh Aitys Poets and Their Patrons Eva-Marie Dubuisson
3. Performing Democracy: State-Making through Patronage in Kyrgyzstan Aksana Ismailbekova
4. "There is This Law..." Performing the State in the Kyrgyz Courts of Elders Judith Beyer

Part II. Political Materials, Political Fantasies
5. The Master Plan of Astana: Between the "Art of Government" and the "Art of Being Global" Alima Bissenova
6. State Building(s): Built Forms, Materiality, and the State in Astana Mateusz Laszczkowski
7. The Bulldozer State: Chinese Socialist Development in Xinjiang Ildikó Bellér-Hann
8. The Time of the Border: Contingency, Conflict and Popular Statism at the Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Boundary Madeleine Reeves

Part III. Moral Positionings
9. Reclaiming Ma’naviyat: Morality, Criminality and Dissident Politics in Uzbekistan Sarah Kendzior
10. The Reshaping of Cities and Citizens in Uzbekistan: The Case of Namangan’s "New Uzbeks" Tommaso Trevisani
11. Massacre Through a Kaleidoscope: Fragmented Moral Imaginaries of the State in Central Asia Morgan Liu
12. Cold War Memories and Post-Cold War Realities: The Politics of Memory and Identity in the Everyday Life of Kazakhstan’s Radiation Victims Cynthia Werner and Kathleen Purvis-Roberts

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