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

Overview

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...

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

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Border Work is a fascinating and original fieldwork-based account of the making and remaking of borders in the Ferghana Valley. In this empirically rich and theoretically sophisticated book, borders are not taken as given, but are themselves objects of ethnographic inquiry. Such an approach permits Madeleine Reeves to construct a sustained critique of the ways in which politicians, scholars, and others conceptualize statehood, the making and performance of state power, and nationality."—Jessica Pisano, The New School for Social Research, author of The Post-Soviet Potemkin Village: Politics and Property Rights in the Black Earth

"In this brilliant ethnography of the state, Madeleine Reeves shows us how a border can be materialized in particular moments and settings, ruptured and remade by everyday acts, and stabilized and destabilized by movements elsewhere. The border is a work in progress that can easily be undone. Border Work is wonderfully observed and beautifully written. It is a major contribution to our understanding of politics as event."—Andrew Barry, author of Material Politics

"While many scholars study Central Asia through the political dynamics of cities and capitals, Madeleine Reeves ventures into the remotest corners of Batken and the Ferghana to craft a textured account of life in rural borderlands. Her book shows rural populations to be far more globalized and politically savvy than is often expected. Central Asian officials and development officials should take note."—George Gavrilis, author of The Dynamics of Interstate Boundaries

"Border Work is a theoretically sophisticated ethnography of the state. Beautifully written and grounded in rich fieldwork, it shows how states are works in progress, their authority ceaselessly performed and contested. While situated in the early twenty-first century, the book also provides fascinating insights into the twentieth-century history of the Ferghana Valley and the consequences of Soviet rule there. Madeleine Reeves has brought the rich materials of Central Asia fully into conversation with cutting-edge anthropology."—Adeeb Khalid, author of Islam after Communism

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Madeleine Reeves is Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester. She is the coauthor of Surviving the Transition? Case Studies of Schools and Schooling in the Kyrgyz Republic Since Independence, editor of Movement, Power and Place in Central Asia and Beyond: Contested Trajectories, and coeditor of Ethnographies of the State in Central Asia: Performing Politics.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: On Border Work
1. Locations: Place and Displacement in Southern Ferghana
2. Delimitations: Ethno-Spatial Fixing in the Twentieth Century
3. Trajectories: Mobility and the Afterlives of Internationalism
4. Gaps: Working a "Chessboard" Border
5. Impersonations: Manning the Border, Enacting the State
6. Separations: Conflict and the Escalation of Force
Conclusion

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