“Tracing Migration and Global Connectedness – Urban Contexts in Central Asia and Beyond”
We invite abstract submissions for “Tracing Migration and Global Connectedness – Urban Contexts in Central Asia and Beyond”, a two-day workshop for PhD-candidates to be held at the Department of Asian and African Studies, Humboldt University Berlin, on May 30 and 31, 2013.
During the first 15+ years of “Western” research in post-Soviet Central Asia, among the most prominent topics on the scientific agenda were such salient „transformations“ as the (re-)awakening of religious spirituality, the (d)evolution of civil society, and the effects of privatization on local livelihoods. In general, these developments can be read as a retreat of the freshly non-Socialist states from crucial domains of everyday life, such as welfare, employment, health, transportation and education.
As regards the spatial patterns of these pervasive changes, it soon became obvious that the peripheral areas of post-Soviet Central Asia would be significantly more affected than the city centers. Paying tribute to these dynamics, during the 1990s and early 2000s ethnographic fieldwork predominantly was focused on the region's rural settings. Only recently, i.e. starting from the mid-2000s, there has been a growing interest in those Central Asian “urban phenomena” that are intrinsically related to the massive migration movements from the nowadays neglected rural hinterlands towards the larger cities of these “newly independent” nation-states and beyond.
At the same time, urban locations within Central Asia, certainly more than the region's peripheral areas, have become incorporated into a “global system” that merges copious human mobility with instant media dissemination and the multiple re-structuring effects of neoliberal capitalism. The convergence of both these large-scale trends – rural-to-urban migration and global connectedness – has produced Central Asian urban arenas where a range of different actors – such as long-term city dwellers, recent newcomers, the poor disenfranchised or ambitious elites – negotiate belonging, practice in- and exclusion, and aspire to improve their livelihoods by referring to multiple identifications and by utilizing given opportunities. Paradigmatic themes of such contemporary urban encounters touch on (imagined) lifestyles and behavior patterns (e.g. re-negotiations of the “urban habitus”), on the appropriation and politicization of space (e.g. illegal settlements or materialized state symbolisms), as well as on the participation of urban residents in political decision-making or other spheres of public life.
Starting from these assumptions, the aim of our workshop will be to approach and situate Central Asian urbanities by developing a comparative, trans-regional perspective. To achieve this, we want to confront ethnographic contributions focusing on urban contexts in Central Asia with case studies from adjoining regional settings, such as the Caucasus, Russia, China, and South Asia. In doing so, we aim to trace the impacts of migration and global connectedness on these cities' recent historical trajectories and scalar positionings, as well as we want to investigate the city dwellers' distinct ways of adapting, integrating and creatively arranging their lives within these urban contexts.
Contributions may relate to one or both of the major themes of our workshop:
- “The variety of urban lifestyles”: for instance, rural migrants' efforts to synchronize their ways of behaving, dressing, speaking and spending time after re-locating to a city; as part of such a migrant's “urban socialization”: managing anonymity and uncertainty in city contexts and establishing oneself within existing social formations; the role of imagination and consumption for urban lifestyles, including the question how these are shaped by various actors in reference to particular global, regional, national or other frameworks (such as by returning labor migrants, students and pilgrims, but also by tourists, foreign workers, local and transnational media and popular culture).
- “The production and politicization of urban space”: for instance, the question of (private) inner-city (im)mobility, the social construction of public hotspots or the negotiation of (urban) conflicts pertaining to a certain topic (illegal settlements, mosques, memorials etc.); also: the question of historical (dis-)continuities and pathways of both capital and non-capital urban settings, for instance the evolution of a city's positioning from Soviet/Socialist times up to the contemporary era in regards to aspects such as economic opportunities, religious spirituality, cultural production, political standing or as a temporary waypoint for migrants.
Please send your abstract (max. 300 words, English) and a short CV (2-3 pages) to Prof. Dr. Manja Stephan (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr. Philipp Schröder (email@example.com). The deadline for the submission of abstracts and CVs is February 15, 2013.
Those selected to participate in the workshop will be notified by the end of February 2013.
Final papers will be due no later than May 15, 2013. We intend to publish the workshop papers as an edited volume.
There will be the possibility to offer a number of travel subsidies for workshop participants.
Prof. Dr. Manja Stephan / Dr. Philipp Schroeder
Humboldt University Berlin
Department of Asian and African Studies Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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