Are there Central Eurasian Forms of Power? Theorizing Configurations and Materialities
Christopher Atwood (University of Pennsylvania)
Henry Hale (George Washington University)
Christopher Atwood
Henry Hale
Posvar 3911
Start time:
25 October, 2018 at 14:15
Session slots:


Central Eurasia has been variously portrayed as a marginal zone across which migrations occur, a contested "game" between empires, or (more recently) a nexus of outside interventions seeking to promote democracy, extend markets, spread Islamism, or extract oil. These portrayals share an assumption that Central Eurasia is defined by outside interests and that consequential power is situated outside of the region. This session seeks to theorize Eurasian formations of power differently, via a set of cases situated in different times and places. We ask, are there notable patterns in the configurations and material mechanisms by which political, economic, or social power is organized, displayed, perpetuated, or legitimated in Central Eurasia from 4000 years ago until today? Can we approach an account of Central Eurasia's deep history as multiple, overlapping socio-political networks of various scales and spans that constitute the function of states and societies? How did personal networks scale up to create society, and how are larger social structures enacted or resisted in day-to-day interactions at the local level? This panel assembles comparative, interdisciplinary, and longue duree thinking from archaeology, climate science, history, anthropology, and geography. We challenge participants to address what (if anything) makes their case notably "Central Eurasian", even as we acknowledge the multiple connections the region has had with broader cultural, political, financial, and environmental contexts. Tekla Schmaus's paper discusses the spatial organization of non-state power as enacted and negotiated between households in agro-pastoral communities during the Bronze Age of Central Eurasia. Natalie Koch's paper theorizes connections between Central Asia and Arab Gulf states as a complex form of geo-power exercised through discourse and materialities. Morgan Liu's paper looks critically at the literature of patronage networks globally to illuminate the operation and significance of "informal", non-state formations of power in Soviet and post-Soviet Central Asia and Caucasus.