814 Pages 81 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This landmark book provides a comprehensive anthropological introduction to contemporary Central Asia. Established and emerging scholars of the region critically interrogate the idea of a ‘Central Asian World’ at the intersection of post-Soviet, Persianate, East and South Asian worlds. Encompassing chapters on life between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Xinjiang, this volume situates the social, political, economic, ecological and ritual diversity of Central Asia in historical context. The book ethnographically explores key areas such as the growth of Islamic finance, the remaking of urban and sacred spaces, as well as decolonising and queering approaches to Central Asia. The volume’s discussion of More-than-Human Worlds, Everyday Economies, Material Culture, Migration and Statehood engages core analytical concerns such as globalisation, inequality and postcolonialism. Far more than a survey of a ‘world region’, the volume illuminates how people in Central Asia make a life at the intersection of diverse cross-cutting currents and flows of knowledge. In so doing, it stakes out the contribution of an anthropology of and from Central Asia to broader debates within contemporary anthropology.

    This is an essential reference for anthropologists as well as for scholars from other disciplines with a focus on Central Asia.



    The Central Asian World

    Table of Contents





    1. Introduction: Situating Central Asian Worlds

    Jeanne Féaux de la Croix (Independent Scholar) and Madeleine Reeves (University of Oxford)


    Part I: Frames of Enquiry

    2. Researching Ethnogenesis in the Service of Nation-building and Socialist Modernity.

    Sergey Abashin (European University at St. Petersburg)

    3. Lasting Legacies in Central Asia’s Agro-Pastoralist Livelihoods.
    Jeanine Dağyeli (University of Vienna and Austrian Academy of Sciences)

    4. Aftershocks of Perestroika: Tajikistan’s Flattened Modernity.
    Isaac Scarborough (Leiden University)

    5. Struggles to Interpret Islam in Central Asia: Religion, Politics, and Anthropology.
    Julie McBrien (University of Amsterdam)

    6. Decolonizing ‘the Field’ in the Anthropology of Central Asia: ‘Being There’ and ‘Being Here’. Alima Bissenova (Nazarbayev University)

    7. Utterly Other: Queering Central Asia, Decolonising Sexualities.
    Mohira Suyarkulova (American University of Central Asia)



    Part II: Solidarity and Struggle

    8. Belonging Between Two Worlds: Finding a Home as a Kazakh from Xinjiang.

    Zhaina Meirkhan (Nazarbayev University)

    9. The Dvor and Urban Communities: Socio-Spatial Rhythms in Bishkek and Other Cities of Central Asia.

    Philipp Schröder (University of Freiburg)

    10. Fighting back: Older Working-Class Women’s Resistance Against Market Forces in Kyrgyzstan.

    Elmira Satybaldieva (University of Kent)

    11. Local Political Organization in Afghanistan.

    Jennifer Murtazashvilli (University of Pittsburgh)

    12. Marriage, Security and Care Strategies for Uzbek Daughters in Southern Kyrgyzstan.

    Aksana Ismailbekova (MPI Halle)

    13. New Churches and the Religious Freedom Agenda in Kyrgyzstan.

    Noor O’Neill Borbieva (Purdue University Fort Wayne)


    Part III: Care and Obligation

    14. Theorizing Central Asian Neighbourhoods: Social Interdependence, State Encounter, and Narrative.

    Morgan Liu (Ohio State University)

    15. Life and Death in the Margins: Care and Ambivalences in Southern Kyrgyzstan.

    Grace Zhou (Stanford University)

    16. Bargaining Over Care and Control: Money Transfers and ICT-Based Communication in Transnational Families.

    Juliette Cleuziou (University of Lyon-II)

    17. Ambiguous Spaces of Exploitation: Turkmen Domestic Workers in Istanbul.

    Marhabo Saparova (Northeastern University)


    Part IV: Navigating the State

    18. Ethnicizing Infrastructure: Roads, Railways and Differential Mobility in Northwest China. Agnieskza Joniak-Lüthi (University of Fribourg, Switzerland)

    19. Language Choices, Future Imaginaries, and the Lived Hierarchy of Languages in Post-industrial Tajikistan.

    Elena Borisova (University of Manchester)

    20. Sonic Statecrafting: the Politics of Popular Music in Uzbekistan. Kerstin Klenke (University of Vienna)

    21. Before the Law: Policy, Practice, and the Search for the ‘Prepared Migrant Worker’ in the Transnational Migration Bureaucracy.

    Malika Bahovadinova (University of Amsterdam)

    22. Reeducation Time: the Banality of Violent Paternalism in Xinjiang. Darren Byler (Simon Fraser University)


    Part V: Persons, Healing, and More-than-Human Worlds

    23. The Art of Interpreting Visionary Dreams.

    Maria Louw (Aarhus University)

    24. Early Childhood Health Care in Rural Kyrgyzstan. Baktygul Tulebaeva (Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main)

    25. Drunkenness and Authority Between Animal and Human Worlds: on the Partridge Hunt in Tajikistan.

    Brinton Ahlin (University of Chicago)

    26. Healing with Spirits: Human and More-than-human Agency in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Danuta Penkala-Gawęcka (Adam Mickiewicz University)


    Part VI: Ethical Repertoires

    27. Legal Pluralism: the Customization of State and Religious Law in Kyrgyzstan.

    Judith Beyer (University of Konstanz)

    28. Tensions in the Art of Afghan Hospitality.

    Magnus Marsden (University of Sussex)

    29. Mobile Livelihoods of Kyrgyz Tablighi Jamaat: Living between Two Worlds.
    Emil Nasritdinov (American University of Central Asia)

    30. The Value of a Dead Miner: Industrial Accidents, Compensation and Fairness in Kazakhstan.

    Eeva Kesküla (Tallinn University)

    Part VII: Everyday Moral Economies

    31. Who Owns the (Good) Land? Land Ownership and Salinised Soils on Central Asian Cotton Farms.

    Tommaso Trevisani (University of Naples, ‘L’Orientale’)

    32. Changing Pastoral Livelihoods.

    Carole Ferret (CNRS, Paris)

    33. Small-scale Gold Mining Communities in Kyrgyzstan: Torn between Extraction Projects. Gulzat Botoeva (Roehampton University)

    34. The Central Asian Bazaar since 1991.

    Hasan Karrar (Lahore University of Management Sciences)

    35. Halal as a Site of Dilemma and Negotiation.

    Aisalkyn Botoeva (Independent Scholar)


    Part VIII: Mobility and Migration

    36. The Money of Home: Remittances and the Remaking of an Afghan Transnational Family. Said Reza Kazemi (University of Heidelberg)

    37. Gendered Worlds and Cosmopolitan Lives: Muslim Female Traders in Yiwu and Dushanbe. Diana Ibañez-Tirado (University of Sussex)

    38. Informality and Uzbek Migrant Networks in Russia and Turkey. Rustamjon Urinboyev (Lund University) and Sherzod Eraliev (University of Helsinki)

    39. Diasporas of Empire: Ismaili Networks and Pamiri Migration.
    Till Mostowlansky (Graduate Institute Geneva/ Monash University)


    Part IX: Material Culture, Performance and Skill

    40. Uzbek Cinema as a Lens on Early Soviet State- and Nation-building

    Cloé Drieu (French National Centre for Scientific Research)

    41. In the Blood and Through the Spirit: Learning Central Asian Textile Skills.

    Stephanie Bunn (University of St. Andrews)

    42. The Pottery Masters of Uzbekistan: Differentiating Authenticity in Handicraft.

    Haruka Kikuta (Hokkai Gakuen University)

    43. Clans as Heritage Communities in Kyrgyzstan.
    Svetlana Jacquesson (Palacky University)

    44. Uyghur Subnational Histories as Meta-heritage.

    Ildikó Bellér-Hann (University of Copenhagen)

    45. The Uyghur Twelve Muqam and the Performance of Traditional Literature.

    Nathan Light (Uppsala University)


    Part X: Sacred Worlds

    46. Using Experience Differently: Religion, Security, and Anthropology in Central Asia.

    David Montgomery (CEDAR Communities)

    47. Sacred Sites in Kyrgyzstan as an Arena of Power Relations.
    Gulnara Aitpaeva (Aigine Cultural Research Centre)

    48. Uyghur Islam, Embodied Listening, and New Publics.
    Rachel Harris (SOAS, University of London)

    49. Mosque Lives: Sponsorship, Islamic Study Circles, and Dynamics of Belonging.

    Yanti Hölzchen (University of Frankfurt)

    50. Polyphonic Afterword: Anthropology for Central Asian WorldsJeanne Féaux de la Croix (Independent Scholar) and Madeleine Reeves (University of Oxford), with contributions from the collective of authors


    Jeanne Feaux de la Croix is a social anthropologist focusing on water and energy issues. She is the author of Iconic Places in Central Asia: The Moral Geography of Pastures, Dams and Holy Sites (2017) and is co-editor with Beatrice Penati of Environmental Humanities in Central Asia (Routledge, 2023). She is setting up a transdisciplinary team at the University of Bern to foster environmental justice around marine renewable energy technologies.

    Madeleine Reeves is Professor in the Anthropology of Migration at the University of Oxford. Her interests lie in the anthropology of space, power, mobility and reproduction. She is the author of Border Work: Spatial Lives of the State in Rural Central Asia (2014) and the co-editor, most recently, of The Everyday Lives of Sovereignty with Rebecca Bryant (2021). She is currently leading a new research project on infertility and the emergence of new reproductive markets in Central Asia.

    "Discover the 'Central Asian World' through the lenses of leading anthropologists. Drawing from empirical data and giving voice to local communities, the authors help us to explore the complex life and experiences of contemporary Central Asians. These original contributions were possible due to the generosity and hospitality of Central Asians who welcomed ‘outsiders’ into their homes and generously shared their food, time, and knowledge with them. If a decade ago, Central Asians had served foreign anthropologists as research assistants, translators and/or informants, today, they have become established and emergent scholars contributing to the international discourse on the region."

    Elmira Köchümkulova, Co-ordinator of the Cultural Heritage and Humanities Unit, University of Central Asia

    "This collection of deeply informed essays puts the 'Central' back into 'Central Asia' -- a region too long treated as a cultural and intellectual backwater but in historical and ethnological reality an arena of socio-cultural ferment and reciprocal permeation on a global scale. The authors transform the charge of marginality into an object of critical reflection across an impressive array of disciplines, topics, and venues."

    Michael Herzfeld, Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University, USA

     "Central Asia has long been unaccountably marginalized in disciplinary and political worldings. This superb collection of essays triumphantly demonstrates the huge importance of this vast region for anyone interested in understanding the contemporary world. Offering a comprehensive, polyphonic introduction to the area's diverse and fluid pasts and presents, the volume advances cutting-edge anthropological approaches in explorations of how more-than-human reverberations of previous regimes affect and shape material culture, ecologies, cosmologies, kinship, economies and state encounters. With contributors from both within and beyond Central Asia, this looks set to be a foundational work for the region and social sciences alike."

    Catherine Alexander, Professor in the Department of Anthropology, Durham University, UK