It is well known that labor migrants from different countries all over the Eurasian Union are the backbone of crucial economy sectors in the Russian Federation as, inter alia, construction, agriculture or trade. This article deals with another less mentioned but similarly significant labor market, which substantially changed its assemblage during the last couple of years, namely commercial urban transport services. In the last two decades, the marshrutka sector underwent major reforms and formalization processes that, on the one hand, brought operators back into the tax net and ensured a certain extension of control to the local transportation departments but, on the other hand, worsened the labor conditions of the transportation workers. Drawing from the empirical evidence of my fieldwork in southern Russia, I describe currently problematized mobility assemblages and embed the actor’s articulations in broader conflicts within the marshrutka business and transportation regulation policy. I further analyze how labor migrants have been forced to accept unfavorable working conditions in the enterprises as a direct result of politically triggered reforms in the marshrutka business. The paper provides insights into the social arena of the marshrutka, which serves as a societal encounter of urban conflicts and transformation mirroring (un-)intended effects of the local transportation reformation attempts.
In Turkmenistan, Islamic charitable alms (sadaka) are a central part of daily life in the desert villages surrounding Gökdepe town, about five hours drive from the capital, Aşgabat. Adults give sadaka for reasons of religious merit, in order to pay respects to deceased family members and prior to major life-cycle events such as weddings. This article links Turkmen sadaka to other life-cycle ceremonies noted in the surrounding Central Asian countries. Life-cycle ceremonies have been theorised in two broadly different ways, as either concerned with prestige and status or as ethical projects. I bring these two approaches into conversation through the notion of social reproduction. Using long-term ethnographic research, I argue that Turkmen sadaka reveals how the economics of daily life and social reproduction are directly dependent on divine gifts. It is an ethical project for those participating that, at the same time, has recognised social consequences in terms of status and prestige.
Review of Natalie Koch, The Geopolitics of Spectacle: Space, Synecdoche, and the New Capitals of Asia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2018).
Revisiting State Spectacle Through the New Capitals of Asia
In the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (People’s Republic of China), history is taught according to Chinese nationalistic guidelines and the history of ethnic groups is built around their relationships with the Han majority. In this context of historical hegemony, the paper examines a series of books for Uyghur children on famous historical characters in order to understand how young generations’ ethnic consciousness can be shaped. The analysis identifies some trends of the Uyghur ethnic discourse transmitted to children (connections with the history of Central Asia and the Middle East, the focus on elements of identification such as Islam and muqams), as well as the presence of a Chinese paradigm that supports progress, secular education, and the standardization of folklore. Furthermore, the article aims to identify how much leeway is given to the development of a counter-discourse, particularly in the transmission of historical and cultural heritage to the younger generations.
Recent studies have convincingly demonstrated that Soviet state atheism continues to influence how religion is understood and practiced in present-day Central Asia. In Kyrgyzstan, however, a new generation of atheists is emerging whose ideas about atheism—and about religion—are informed more by globally circulating neo-atheist ideas and images. This paper explores their efforts to live atheist lives and be true to their atheist convictions, and the images of religion that play into the process. Focusing on the role of social media in particular, I will argue that while many, at least initially, embrace these platforms as ways to encounter like-minded individuals and experience moral community, what they encounter there are often images of atheism and its religious “others” with which they cannot identify and which often seem irrelevant to the challenges of everyday life, in which coexistence with (and caring for) religious others are central concerns for many.
For many members of the Tajik governing elite, Muslim piety remains problematic—a stubborn, socially regressive holdover of anti-modern Tajiks—and Muslim leaders are often thought of merely as anachronistic cultural survivals. This paper interrogates the depiction of Muslim exemplars as they appear on Tajik state television by comparing a 2009 documentary about the life of Imomi Abūḣanifa, the eponymous founder of the Ḣanafī school of jurisprudence, with an exposé about Ėshoni Temur, a local Naqshbandī Sufi pir tried and convicted in 2015 for polygyny and various indeterminate offenses against official notions of Muslim religiosity. This article considers different regimes of Muslim alterity as depicted on state media and argues that the Tajik governing elite alternately renders problematic Islam as innocuous heritage or in need of swift extermination.
This paper takes stock of “Islamic media” in the ussr by reviewing the kinds of sources that are available for the study of Islam in the Soviet Union, and, more importantly, exploring how social historians can use them. What follows is a detailed discussion of three genres of materials: anti-religious propaganda; correspondence of the official organizations engaged with Islam; and what, for convenience’s sake, I will term Islamic samizdat (popular religious literature and the few available autobiographies of ‘ulama).
Diana T. Kudaibergenova
This article examines diverse perceptions and discourses of Islam, fundamentalism, spirituality, and culture in the contemporary Central Asian context, revealed through the study of contemporary art and its discussions about these phenomena. While many online sources and social media accounts provide a framework for different types of religiosity—cultural, pious, or fundamental—contemporary art in the region serves as a platform for critiquing religion as a whole. I use the examples of the most famous works by prominent Central Asian contemporary artists, who discuss Tengriism, Islam, and other religious practices in their works, performances, and videos. The diversity of online platforms that transfer discussions of Islam and religion to the digital forums through which third-wave artists promote their works also create space for more pluralistic views of—and discourses on—Islam.