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Reeves, Madeleine Frances

Grant Type
Int'l Collaborative Research Grant
Insitutional Affiliation
Manchester, U. of
Active Grant
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Project Title
Reeves, Dr. Madeleine, U. of Manchester, Manchester, UK; and Aitpaeva, Dr.Gulnara, Aigine Cultural Research Centre, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan - To aid collaborative research on 'Conviviality And Contention In Southern Kyrgyzstan: An Infrastructural Approach'

Preliminary abstract: This project contributes to a critical interdisciplinary scholarship on the politics of conflict prediction and 'preventive development' in rural Central Asia through a collaborative ethnography of the infrastructures and material practices facilitating yntymak (inter-communal conviviality) and chatak (contention) in Batken, southwest Kyrgyzstan. Batken oblast', the irrigation-dependent southern fringe of Central Asia's Ferghana valley, where Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan meet, often figures in popular and policy accounts in determinist terms: as a region unusually liable to conflict, marked by an excess of ethnic and geopolitical complexity. The current project aims to shed light on the habitual dynamics through which local disputes are regulated, channeled or diffused in this region by adopting an infrastructural perspective. Rather than taking the ethnic community as our ethnographic starting point, we rather pose as an empirical question how and under which conditions certain kinds of public come to be habitually reproduced and others come to be 'blocked'. We do so by focusng on particular critical infrastructures that connect borderland villages and kinds of public space that these serve to materailize. Drawing on ethnographic research and infrastructural mapping in two pairs of geographically contiguous villages, we look at the social relations that coalesce around water channels and pipes, roads and public transport; markets, medical clinics and sacred sites (mazarlar). We suggest that doing so can provide an alternative geography of social relations and social contention from that which dominates in existing academic and policy studies. In so doing we seek to invigorate a debate about the stakes and dynamics of interethnic conflict in Central Asia, one that has tended to be polarized by disagreement over whether 'resources' or 'identities' should be considered analytically primary.