Events Calendar

Uyghur Neighborhoods in Kazakhstan @ Conference Room 505
May 16 @ 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM
Uyghur Neighborhoods in Kazakhstan @ Conference Room 505

with Sean Roberts, Associate Professor and Director, International Development Studies Program, GWU

With the fall of the Soviet Union, the Uyghurs of Kazakhstan, like many others in the former USSR, began to resurrect and re-invent traditional cultural practices that had been repressed during the Soviet period as either contrary to socialist atheism or as remnants of a “feudal past.” These traditions included daily practices and rituals based in local communities as well as the informal structure of neighborhood governance that regulates such practices. Since the 1990s, the importance of these neighborhood structures and practices to Uyghur daily life in Kazakhstan have gradually increased, and most recently the informal structure of neighborhood governance has even been scaled up to create a Republic-wide organization that represents Uyghur interests to the government of Kazakhstan. This lecture will discuss the evolution of local Uyghur neighborhoods in Kazakhstan over the last twenty years, focusing on these communities’ roles in both cultural resurrection and political mobilization.

Sean R. Roberts, PhD is a professor at the Elliott school and the Director of the International Development Studies program. He is a cultural anthropologist who has done extensive fieldwork among the Uyghur people of Central Asia and China, and worked for USAID in Central Asia on democracy programs. In 1996 he produced a documentary film on the Uyghur people titled, Waiting for Uighurstan.

Diversification of an Energy-Producing Economy Agricultural Policy in Kazakhstan @ Conference Room 505
Jan 8 @ 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
Diversification of an Energy-Producing Economy Agricultural Policy in Kazakhstan @ Conference Room 505

with Richard Pomfret, Professor of Economics, University of Adelaide, Australia

Kazakhstan has used energy revenues to save for the future, invest in human capital, and diversify the structure of production with the goal of becoming one of the “fifty most competitive, dynamically developing countries in the world”. Agriculture has been a key part of the diversification strategy ever since the government committed a billion dollars to the 2003-5 Agriculture and Food Program. Since then agricultural policy has passed through several phases, mirroring evolving attitudes in Kazakhstan towards the role of government and of the market in economic development. This seminar analyses the content and consequences of agricultural policy, and agriculture’s role in Kazakhstan’s economic transformation.

Richard Pomfret, Professor of Economics at the University of Adelaide, Australia, and adviser to the Australian government and to international organizations such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, United Nations Development Programme, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Understanding Conflict and Ethnic Violence in Kyrgyzstan
Mar 5 @ 12:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Understanding Conflict and Ethnic Violence in Kyrgyzstan

with Neil Melvin, Director of Program Armed Conflict and Conflict Management, SIPRI

Over the last two decades, Kyrgyzstan has experienced two major outbreaks of violence involving the main ethnic communities in the country: the Kyrgyz and the Uzbeks. These violent incidentshave generally been viewed as ethnic conflicts and much of the response to the violence from thegovernment, local communities, and the international community has been framed within thisunderstanding. At the same time, Kyrgyzstan has also experienced other, less significant violent events and political crises that have often been linked temporally to the “ethnic conflicts”. This suggests that a full understanding of the nature of armed conflict in Kyrgyzstan and the involvement of ethnic communities in violence at a minimum requires a broader examination of the context of the violence. Neil Melvin is director of Program Armed Conflict and Conflict Management at the StockholmInternational Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), and has also worked at a variety of leading policy institutes in Europe. 

Cinema Club Film Screening: The Needle @ Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412
Oct 16 @ 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Cinema Club Film Screening: The Needle @ Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412 | Washington | District of Columbia | United States
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Directed by Rashid Nugmanov (Kazakhstan, 1988)

In the bleak filmscape of glasnost, The Needle stood out as a black sheep of a movie. The most playful and offbeat of the Soviet films of the period, it contrasted sharply to the mainstream, which was overwhelmed with revisionism of the Stalinist past and nihilistic social criticism.

A young man named Moro (played by Viktor Tsoi, the late rock ‘n’ roll legend from the St. Petersburg band “Kino”) returns to his Asiatic hometown only to find his exgirlfriend, Dina (Marina Smirnova), becoming a drug addict and himself becoming involved in the bizarre life of the city’s underworld. In an attempt to save Dina, Moro takes her away to the Aral Sea, turned into a barren desert by the time they arrive. There Dina seems cured, but back in town everything starts anew. Almost desperate, Moro decides to fight the drug dealers, led by a hospital doctor (played by another rock ‘n’ roll star, eccentric leader of the “Sound of Mu” band and the future star of Taxi Blues , Pyotr Mamonov), when one of them stabs him in a deserted park.

Re-imagining “post-Soviet” Central Asia: The role of the GCC and articulating geopolitical identities through capital cities. @ Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412
Nov 21 @ 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM
Re-imagining “post-Soviet” Central Asia: The role of the GCC and articulating geopolitical identities through capital cities. @ Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412 | Washington | District of Columbia | United States
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]With Natalie Koch,Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University

In the newly independent states of Central Asia, geopolitical practices and affinities cannot be understood in isolation from their Soviet heritage. However, after nearly 25 years since the collapse of the USSR, this near-automatic explanation of contemporary politics in terms of Soviet legacies is no longer sufficient for understanding Central Asia’s shifting geopolitics. In this paper, I analyze how geopolitical identities are narrated through urban development schemes in Astana, Baku, and Ashgabat – and in particular how they are increasingly connected to new flows of actors, ideas, and finance from the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Adopting a critical geopolitics approach, I compare and contrast elements of these capital city development schemes in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan with those in Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Through this comparative analysis, I demonstrate how region-making and geopolitical orientations unfold not just at the level of rhetorical positioning, but can also develop through the material practices of cross-regional networks around highly specific political tactics, like capital city development. Also considering divergences, I note that although the urban landscapes these tactics materialize are very similar, there are important differences in the underlying political geographic and political economic factors that makes them possible, as well as the political relations they sustain and produce.

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