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Social protests are expressions of popular grievances, citizens’ disagreement, and indignation. With the transfer of power in Kazakhstan, ongoing political changes in Uzbekistan and recent protest-driven change of power Kyrgyzstan, protests are on the rise in Central Asia. This panel will bring together scholars using both quantitative (large N-datasets, regression analysis) and qualitative methods (interviews, participant observation) to examine emergent forms of contentious politics in Central Asia. The papers will reflect on issues around which people are mobilizing, the drivers of protest, the tactics used by protesters and what shapes the response of those targeted.
Edward Lemon will use data from the Central Asia Protest Tracker, an original dataset of 1,577 protests in the region since 2018, to uncover patterns of protests in the region. His paper will use regression analysis to uncover which independent variables (protest location, size, groups linked, issue type) affect whether the targets of protest make concessions, do nothing or respond violently in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Serik Beimenbetov's paper will focus on urban grassroots mobilization tackling issues related to the transformation of urban environment Almaty. His study will inquire into factors that move the city dwellers to engage in grassroot mobilization and the challenges they face. He concludes that these various forms of civic grassroots mobilization revitalize new forms of citizenship.
Asel Doolot's paper examines protests in Kyrgyzstan. Some accounts of protests in Central Asia argue that they are not an expression of genuine grievances and selfless representation of public interests, but are orchestrated interests of a narrow group of people. But this paper criticizes this literature for misconceptualizing the political economy of instrumentalized protests and for ignoring the wider implications of such contentious politics for state-society relations, public attitudes towards politics and power, and for group formation on the level of grassroots mobilizations. Based on ethnographic research of various protest movements (rural, labor, and urban), the paper looks at the process of erosion of distinction between social contention and politics as usual, and how protests became its continuation through the loss of authenticity.
Combined, these papers will use extensive fieldwork, mixed methods and sources of data to shed light on the latest developments regarding contentious politics in Central Asia.