Locating danger: Konfliktologiia and the search for fixity in the Ferghana Valley borderlands

Madeleine Reeves

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I have sought in this paper to provide an ethnographically informed critique of the discipline of konfliktologiia, and its application, through the work of a variety of local and international organizations, to empirical projects in the Ferghana valley. I have argued that konfliktologiia, like other social sciences, is a discipline that has been, in Bourdieu's words, 'taken over by the thought of the state', and that this has profoundly shaped the way in which it discursively 'frames' the analysis of conflict. Specifically, this particular discipline, which has developed and become fashionable in post-Soviet social science in tandem with broader practices of nation-building within and beyond the academe, results in a search for fixity, 'locating' danger in ambiguity, in subversions of the nation-state logic. Transferred to the Ferghana valley, the result is a tendency to essentialize ethnic identities and to assume ethnic difference to be necessarily antagonistic, to see territorial ambiguity as inherently dangerous, and to frame out the state itself as a possible agent of, and contributor to, conflict in the region. Such an approach is in striking contrast with the narratives of those living in border areas, which consistently emphasize the inflammatory potential of corrupt officials acting in the name of the state and the destabilizing impact of excessive border controls. A full and nuanced assessment of conflict potential in the Ferghana Valley must, I suggest, start from a perspective that seeks to explore, rather than merely reify, nation-state discourses. This involves paying attention to the categories of analysis that are used, examining the underlying theories about the nature of ethnic and citizenship attachments that are invoked, and adopting a more critical assessment of the relationship between states and science, power and knowledge. To understand the resilience of the 'discourse of danger' in Central Asia, we may thus be well advised, ironically, to start with the very 'science of peace' itself. © 2005 Central Asian Survey.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-81
Number of pages14
JournalCentral Asian Survey
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005


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