25 episodes

Top experts and journalists from around the world discuss the politics, economy, and culture of Central Asia, covering Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

The Central Asianist Podcast Nate Schenkkan

    • News

Top experts and journalists from around the world discuss the politics, economy, and culture of Central Asia, covering Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

    Episode 25 - Of politics and patronage in Kyrgyzstan

    Episode 25 - Of politics and patronage in Kyrgyzstan

    In episode 25, I talk with Aksana Ismailbekova about her book Blood Ties and the Native Son: Poetics of Patronage in Kyrgyzstan, published by Indiana University Press.
    Blood Ties and the Native Son is an ethnographic study of patronage, kinship relations, and political practice in Kyrgyzstan, centered on the figure of Rahim, who in the late 2000s became an important businessman and an influential figure in the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, or SDPK, before meeting an untimely end in 2008. The book guides the reader through the networks of kinship, geographical relations, and economic clientelism as they are constructed and reconstructed in Rahim’s native village in the Chui Valley in northern Kyrgyzstan. It takes us up close to Rahim’s businesses, his political performance, and local election-day practices. With its extremely close and empathetic reading of kinship and patron-client relationships, the book provides an insightful corrective to simplified narratives of corruption and patronage in Central Asia.

    • 25 min
    Episode 24 - Order at the Central Asian Bazaars

    Episode 24 - Order at the Central Asian Bazaars

    In this podcast, I speak with Regine A. Spector, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, about her book, Order at the Bazaar: Power and Trade in Central Asia, from Cornell University Press. 
    Bazaars, including those in Central Asia, are often treated as sites of chaos –  emblematic of the failure to develop rule of law institutions and in need of state intervention to bring order. In her book, Spector uses extensive interviews and research –  focusing on the Dordoi and Osh bazaars in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan – to document how the people who work in bazaars, and some owners of bazaars, have created islands of order. To do so, they draw on Soviet and pre-Soviet traditions to adapt to the disruptive transition from the Soviet system to capitalism. Order at the Bazaar offers a ground-up view on how citizens build order for themselves, and provides a critique of external approaches to institution-building.

    • 45 min
    Episode 23 - Nationalism in Central Asia

    Episode 23 - Nationalism in Central Asia

    In this episode, I speak with Nick Megoran, Reader in Political Geography at Newcastle University, about his new book, Nationalism in Central Asia: A Biography of the Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan Boundary.
    The book is an engaging and perspective-shifting account of how a new international border was formed where one had not previously existed before. Based on more than 20 years of fieldwork in both countries and along the border, it contributes to a deeper understanding of how discourse about the border has shaped national identities and nationalist politics. Among other topics, Nate and I discuss the role of nationalism in understanding politics in Central Asia, the political dynamics in Kyrgyzstan in advance of the presidential elections, the significance of the reopening of the Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan border, and the names of Nick’s children.

    • 33 min
    Episode 22 - The Changing Situation of Central Asian Labor Migrants in Russia

    Episode 22 - The Changing Situation of Central Asian Labor Migrants in Russia

    In this episode, I speak with Yan Matusevich, a migration researcher with a focus on the post-Soviet space, about how the situation for labor migrants in Russia is changing in light of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
    Yan and I discuss a variety of developments now affecting labor migrants in Russia, including the economic crisis of the last several years, the creation of the EAEU and its new labor regulations for member state citizens, the impact of anti-terrorism policing in Russia, and how Russia’s presidential election campaign could affect migrants.
     

    • 41 min
    Episode 21 - Turkmenistan’s Growing Economic Crisis

    Episode 21 - Turkmenistan’s Growing Economic Crisis

    In this episode, I speak with Farruh Yusupov, the director of RFE/RL’s Turkmen service Azatlyk, about the burgeoning economic crisis in Turkmenistan and whether the government will be able to find a way out.

    With both Russia and Iran having ended the purchase of Turkmen gas, and oil and gas prices declining yet again, dollars are scarce, wages are going unpaid, and subsidies for utilities have been cut. Even with the media under tight control, there is growing frustration with the government’s lack of response to the crisis. Is President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov able and willing to address the crisis? Or is a harder crash inevitable?
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    • 25 min
    Episode 20 - Thaw or No Thaw in Uzbekistan?

    Episode 20 - Thaw or No Thaw in Uzbekistan?

    In this episode, I spoke with Bakhtiyor Nishanov, the deputy director for Eurasia of the International Republican Institute (IRI), about whether Uzbekistan is experiencing a thaw since the death of Islam Karimov in August 2016.
    Bakhti and I discuss Uzbekistan’s policies under President Shavkat Mirziyoyev: the release of a small number of high-profile political prisoners, relaxations on speech restrictions on social media, and improved relations with neighboring countries in Central Asia, among others. Do these changes constitute a genuine thaw, or are they just attempts by a new leader to shore up legitimacy using different tools than his predecessor? What kind of system is Mirziyoyev interested in creating, and what will it mean for Central Asia?
    Special thanks to Eurasianet for its support that has made bringing back the podcast possible.
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    • 36 min

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