Book in Progress: Post-liberal statebuilding in Central Asia - Imaginaries, Discourses and Practices of Social Ordering in Kyrgyzstan 
Erica Marat (National Defense University)
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Voesar Conference Room 412
Sunday 13 October, 11:00-12:45 (UTC+0)

Long Abstract

This panel discusses a monograph that contributes to the intersection of literatures on political change in Central Asia on the one hand and international peace- and statebuilding assistance on the other. The book advances recent debates on the forms of peace and order emerging in light of the declining importance of Western-dominated 'liberal peace' approaches to cooperation and assistance. It further presents an empirically grounded inquiry into the practices and discourses that drive the formation and consolidation of social ordering mechanisms, as well as their post-liberal trajectory, in Kyrgyzstan and beyond.

Theoretically, the monograph develops the concept of post-liberalism based on conversations on 'post-liberal' and 'hybrid forms of peace' in peace and conflict studies, both in the Central Asian context and beyond. Surveying the discussion on 'illiberal' or 'authoritarian' forms of 'conflict management' in Eurasia, it provides a critique to this line of thought and its underlying epistemological assumptions about modern statehood, liberal democracy and capitalist development, as well as the lack of alternative thinking as it is offered in, for instance, decolonial thought.

The conceptual-methodological contribution of the book lies in the development of the concept of 'imaginaries of social order', which is - following the works of Cornelius Castoriadis and Charles Taylor - understood as mental construct structuring people's thoughts and actions. Three purposively defined imaginaries of social order in Kyrgyzstan - the 'Western liberal peace', 'politics of sovereignty' and 'tradition and culture' - foreground the analysis of the complex and contradictory processes of reception and adoption of - and resistance against - globally dominant notions of capitalist economic development, liberal democracy, and peacebuilding and security practices. The analysis focuses on community security and peacebuilding discourses and practices in southern Kyrgyzstan in the aftermath of violent intercommunal clashes in the year 2010. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and both primary and secondary material, the empirical chapters demonstrate the significance but also ambivalent implications of community-level initiatives for peacebuilding and public security. Three case studies illustrate different degrees and ways of communal actors' alignment with local government, law enforcement and security institutions. This illustrates the core argument, namely, that a multiplicity of meanings is often associated to one and the same action or expression in peacebuilding and community security events.

This finding serves to advance the debate on post-liberal forms of peace- and statebuilding beyond the so far predominant parameters and thus foregrounds the important insights the book offers to both academic and policy-oriented audiences.

Accepted papers: