In Harvill 402 at noon today, we’re going to get an interesting talk from Natalie Koch, a doctoral student at CU - Boulder in Geography nearing completion of her dissertation on state building in Kazakstan. She has spent considerable time in the field and this should be of interest to a large number of you.
“Capitalizing the Territory”: State-building and Geopolitical Fears in Independent Kazakhstan
In 1997, Kazakhstan’s capital was moved to Astana – a city “strategically” located in the approximate “center” of the country’s geometrically-conceived territory. Astana now effectively operates as a proxy for President Nazarbayev’s cult of personality, and the city’s development has been essential to shaping the paternalist state-society relations that have developed since Kazakhstan gained independence in 1991. Even today, the question of why the regime chose to move the capital is the subject of widespread popular speculation and elite rationalizations. Many of these rationalizations are connected with geographically-based fears at the borders – away from which (or toward which, in the case of Russia) the capital was moved. Focusing on three of Kazakhstan’s neighbors (Russia, China, and Kyrgyzstan), I will illustrate how these rhetorical practices of discussing the capital change reflect elite and popular imaginations about the most pressing geo-political and geo-economic issues faced by independent Kazakhstan. I will also consider the implications of the Astana project and these discourses for the broader state- and nation-building project in Kazakhstan since 1991. Part of a larger research project, I employ a diverse range of methods, including interviews, participant observation, textual analysis, focus groups (n = 36), and a country-wide survey (n = 1235).
Bring a sack lunch and come learn about Central Asia!