Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Jennifer Fluri

Second Advisor

Tim Oakes

Third Advisor

Emily Yeh

Fourth Advisor

Morgan Liu

Fifth Advisor

Shawhin Roudbari

Abstract

This dissertation is an investigation of urban transformations in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. It argues that the complex processes through which place and identity have been mutually constituted and contested in Osh over the last 150 years have been erased from narratives of “ethnic conflict” produced by contemporary peace-building and conflict prevention initiatives. The dissertation reclaims a broader understanding of the ways that place and identity intersect, one that is rooted in historical context and in the ways that these processes are lived, enacted and understood by city residents today. It begins by discussing the limits to conducting research on ethnicity and conflict in Osh through an examination of the Kyrgyzstani surveillance state and its impacts on the research process. It then examines peace-building and conflict prevention projects in Osh and the Fergana Valley, arguing that international humanitarian and peace-building initiatives have largely ignored the politics of space in Osh, focusing instead on a flattening of identities and a rewriting of historical narrative that justifies and enables western intervention. Next, I turn to historiography to offer an alternative framework for understanding the 2010 ethnic riots. I trace the intertwined histories of urban transformation and the construction of ethnic difference in southern Kyrgyzstan over the last 150 years. Drawing on Henri Lefebvre’s critique of everyday life, I show how new state practices and technologies of modernization, industrialization and development reconfigured the relationship between urban and rural space. The second half of the chapter documents the growing housing crisis, land grabs and protests over a right to the city that preceded the 1990 conflict, leading to an alternate understanding of the 1990 riots. Finally, I describe how residents make sense of these histories, how they remember and recall the spatial politics of recent urban change. Building on feminist geography, I argue that history and memory are situated and relational. Resident voices illuminate urban space as process, rather than as simply a locality that exists in opposition to a globalized world ‘out there’.

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Geography Commons

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