“An Uzbek Elite’s City within a City: Reflections on What Eurasian Power Can Do”
Recent scholarly attention to elites calls for a new look at how and why they exercise power. Elites accomplish various kinds of “weather-making” within their contexts, such as creating or shaping social relations, social ontologies, social imaginaries, political expectations, and political states of affairs. This study is about the kinds of politics needed to shape social reality, the possibilities and limits of agency, and the ethical entanglements of motivation. The case here concerns a political entrepreneur’s claim to act for the communal good by building a suite of interconnected urban institutions. Under this patron as a result, a discriminated community flourished in a Central Asian city under politically adverse circumstances for two decades. The broad range of services and economic benefits from the university, newspaper, clinic, school, cultural centers, shops, commercial enterprises, mosques, and other entities that the patron, Kadyrjon Batirov, ran as an urban microcosm until 2010 within the city of Jalalabat, Kyrgyzstan were his argument in stone that he acted for the common good. The talk reflects on Batirov’s grand projects in southern Kyrgyzstan in terms of non-state Eurasian formations of power, and what that may tell us about the characteristics and limits of that kind of power.
Morgan Y. Liu is a cultural anthropologist studying Muslims in former Communist countries, informal social networks as formations of power in Central Asian societies, emergent complexity of interactions between corporation/state/and NGO, urban space, and Islamic ideas of social justice. He is an Associate Professor in Anthropology and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at The Ohio State University.