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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

Centre for Russian, Central and East European Studies

Grant reference: RES-580-28-0009

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Organised event details

Rethinking the political in Central Asia : perspectives from the anthropology of the state
This workshop brings ethnographic research in post-Soviet Central Asia into long overdue conversation with political anthropological debate on the state. The last decade has witnessed renewed concern with the “state” in anthropology, both as analytical category and ethnographic object. In part this reflects a critical engagement with a Foucauldian analytics of power, which has sought to dereify the state, exploring the discursive conditions that allow political and economic categories to become intelligible and the diverse, often marginal sites, in which the state comes to be imagined and enacted (Beyer, 2007; Chalfin, 2001; Das and Poole (eds.), 2004; Ferme, 2004; Roitman, 2004). In part, however, this renewed interest reflects a broader concern to reinvigorate the study of the political in a way that gives "as much weight to the expressive and performative aspects of politics as to the instrumental" (Spencer, 2007: 17). We understand the "state" to be not simply the outcome of the progressive governmentalisation of society, but also as a locus of intense emotion, a site of hope and an object of fantasy (Artexaga, 2003; Comaroff and Comaroff, 2006; Navaro-Yashin, 2002; 2003; Nelson, 1999; Spencer, 2007). We believe that such an approach can offer new insights into the nature and experience of the political in a region where the complexities of state form have often left authors resorting to paradoxes: the "state against itself" or the "strong-weak state" of recent political science accounts (Jones Luong, 2004). The workshop will bring together a group of junior and more established scholars who have been seeking, in diverse ethnographic sites and in hitherto isolated fashion, to bring the theoretical insights of recent anthropological work on the state to bear on the study of Central Asia.

Primary contributor

Organiser David Galbraith

Bodies involved

Organising body University of Aberdeen

Additional details
14 September 2009
16 September 2009