(National Defense University)
Paper Short Abstract:
On the example of two cities - Almaty and Bishkek - this paper examines reimagining of social order in urban areas by two different types of actors: municipal authorities and urban activists.
Paper long abstract:
Across Eurasia, municipal authorities still function on the inertia of Soviet urban planning and see a city as a system of organized and controlled spaces. Their ideas are increasingly confronted by urbanists, usually collectives of young activists, who propagate ideas of a public space as a sum of diverse human activity, not one that directs it. On the example of two cities - Almaty and Bishkek - this paper examines reimagining of social order in urban areas by two different types of actors: municipal authorities and urban activists. Each group defines personal mobility differently. One restrains spontaneity and establishes regulations, another values freedom and comfort of movement. Authorities prioritize economic growth and disciplined behavior of city residents, while urbanists strive for enjoyable and inclusive spaces. Urban planners see modernity as a way of advancing technological control of a public space through surveillance and policing. Urbanists erect modern art installations to invite creative public participation within a space. Surprisingly, urbanists and municipal authorities in Kazakhstan collaborate more frequently than in Kyrgyzstan where both groups are typically confrontational to each other. One explanation is urbanists in Kyrgyzstan politicize their engagement with urban planners, whereas in Kazakhstan this group of civic activists avoids presenting own ideas in a political light.
Revolution and State Building