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Border Work

Border Work: Spatial Lives of the State in Rural Central Asia

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Cornell University Press
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  • Book Info
    Border Work
    Book Description:

    In Central Asia's Ferghana Valley, where Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan meet, state territoriality has taken on new significance in these states' second decade of independence, reshaping landscapes and transforming livelihoods in a densely populated, irrigation-dependent region. Through an innovative ethnography of social and spatial practice at the limits of the state, Border Work explores the contested work of producing and policing "territorial integrity" when significant stretches of new international borders remain to be conclusively demarcated or effectively policed.

    Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, Madeleine Reeves follows traders, farmers, water engineers, conflict analysts, and border guards as they negotiate the practical responsibilities and social consequences of producing, policing, and deriving a livelihood across new international borders that are often encountered locally as "chessboards" rather than lines. She shows how the negotiation of state spatiality is bound up with concerns about legitimate rule and legitimate movement, and explores how new attempts to secure the border, materially and militarily, serve to generate new sources of lived insecurity in a context of enduring social and economic inter-dependence. A significant contribution to Central Asian studies, border studies, and the contemporary anthropology of the state, Border Work moves beyond traditional ethnographies of the borderland community to foreground the effortful and intensely political work of producing state space.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7089-9
    Subjects: History, Anthropology, Population Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION: On Border Work
    (pp. 1-37)

    On a blistering summer day in 2005 at the southern fringes of Central Asia’s Ferghana Valley, a group of children bathe in the meter-wide irrigation canal that runs along the edge of their village. Some of the older boys wrestle under the surface and splash each other with water. Others jump from a small concrete ledge at the side of the canal, shouting and laughing. One of the girls, recognizing me and spotting my camera, calls out for me to take a picture of the group. The concrete ledge is briefly transformed into a platform on which to squeeze and...

  6. 1. LOCATIONS: Place and Displacement in Southern Ferghana
    (pp. 38-64)

    It is the last day of August 2004 in Batken town in Kyrgyzstan’s far southwest: a dry, windless day typical of late summer when life congregates on the shady side of the street. I join the crowd that has gathered in the rectangular shadow of the town’s post office to await the daily bus bound for Ak-Sai, a border village thirty kilometers to our west lying in the valley of the Isfara River. There is always a throng of people here long before the bus’s scheduled departure at 5 pm. The bus often leaves early, and those who arrive first...

  7. 2. DELIMITATIONS: Ethno-Spatial Fixing in the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 65-100)

    In February 2011, Kyrgyzstan’s third president, Roza Otunbayeva, visited Batken to meet with local officials and community activists. The focus of her speech, in the hall of the regional administration building, was the security of Batken’s borders. “The protection of the territorial integrity of our state, the inviolability of the borders of our country deeply concerns every Kyrgyzstani,” Otunbayeva announced, explaining that an extra 500 troops would be sent to help man the borders of southern Kyrgyzstan during the course of 2011. She urged the formation of voluntary people’s militias (narodnye druzhiny) and mounted guards on sparsely populated or hard-to-reach...

  8. 3. TRAJECTORIES: Mobility and the Afterlives of Internationalism
    (pp. 101-140)

    Khurshed, in his early thirties, turned to the group of former classmates whom he was hosting at his home in Dehkonobodmahalla,in Uzbekistan’s Sokh district, on a chilly January evening in 2005. He picked out an apricot from one of the plates of dried fruit and nuts laid out on the tablecloth (dastorkhon) in front of us and held it up for us to admire. “What did the cosmonauts find when they landed on Mars?” he asked, his voice quizzical, his eyes laughing. He looked around in case any of us might venture an answer, before responding: “That the...

  9. 4. GAPS: Working a “Chessboard” Border
    (pp. 141-172)

    The outside section of Batken’s Saturday market, the Özbek bazar, was unusually crowded one Saturday in early April 2004. A group had gathered around the traders, who came each week from Kokand across the border to sell Uzbek-manufactured silks, galoshes and prayer boots (maasy). There was a vigorous discussion underway, accompanied by the high-pitchedooy-eeethat suggested some surprising or shocking news was being shared. I heard only fragments: a story about Gulnora Karimova, the daughter of Uzbekistan’s president Islam Karimov, and a white Mercedes. I was too far away to hear the story’s dénouement, and since I had been...

  10. 5. IMPERSONATIONS: Manning the Border, Enacting the State
    (pp. 173-204)

    Muktar-Aka’s account of the border-crossingchinovnikshowed how state authority is spoken of as a kind of impersonation (see chapter 4). The portly, tie-wearing official whom Muktar-Aka mocked for attaching a siren to the roof of his car was able to cross the border unchecked because of a particular, efficacious, claim to represent the state. Muktar-Aka himself was in no doubt as to the performative dimensions of such an act. The siren, the tie, and thesluzhebnaia mashina(official car) were temporary and fragile appeals to state authority. Interaction at the border, he suggested, was always shot through with the...

  11. 6. SEPARATIONS: Conflict and the Escalation of Force
    (pp. 205-240)

    In the summer of 2005, I returned, after an absence of several months, to the upper Sokh Valley. There I found Kanysh-ai and her family discussing an event that had occurred two months earlier, during which the bounds of the state and its legitimate violence became suddenly and sharply contested. On May 1, 2005, two school boys from the Tajik-majority village of Hushiar, at the southern limit of Uzbekistan’s Sokh exclave, were severely beaten by border guards from the small Kyrgyz border unit stationed in the neighboring village of Sogment, just across the bridge that marks the informal boundary here...

    (pp. 241-250)

    Landscapes and livelihoods in southern Ferghana have been transformed in significant ways in the new millennium. Plate-glass custom posts and barbed wire fencing; military barracks and conscripts in uniform; monuments to national heroes; passport checks and body searches; bypass roads and conflict maps; seminars on tolerance and election campaigns have all contributed to spatializing the state in new ways. These transformations have had material consequences for people living near the region’s new international borders. Everyday activities such as visiting relatives, burying the dead, transporting apricots, and irrigating domestic plots are often significantly harder to accomplish than they were in the...

    (pp. 251-280)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 281-292)