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Accepted Paper:

Future-making in a place of no future. Remapping future aspirations in post-socialist Tajikistan  
Carolin Maertens (Rachel Carson Center, LMU Munich)

Paper short abstract:

This paper brings to attention the shifting geographies of future-making in the context of international, religiously underpinned development interventions in post-Soviet Tajikistan. It highlights how the relocation of opportunities and their financing shape livelihoods in particular ways.

Paper long abstract:

In the mountainous and remote South-East of Tajikistan a good life used to be not a matter of the future, it was actually lived. Today, materially solid livelihoods, state welfare, and a rich cultural life constitute fond memories of a past that collapsed together with the Soviet Union. Iskhoshim was a buzzling town on the Soviet outer border with Afghanistan—equipped with a theatre, central heating, a boarding school, an airport, tarmac roads, hospitals—welcoming engineers, scientists, and tourists from all over the USSR. Today, Ishkoshim’s residents rely on remittances to survive, mostly sent from Russia. Pondering economic opportunities, the statement “There is no future here” often seemingly concluded this familiar post-socialist story of decay and nostalgia—just to continue with a particular twist: For the largely Ismaili Muslim population of the Western Pamirs, the end of the Soviet Union not only initiated the return of their spiritual leader, the Aga Khan IV, and, in particular, extensive development interventions in all spheres of life carried out under his auspices; it also fundamentally reconfigured the geography of future-making. Shifting away from former (Soviet) destinations while still financed by remittances sent from those, ambitious future aspirations are now following the contours of the resource-rich transnational Ismaili community abroad.

Based on twenty-one months of fieldwork conducted between 2013 and 2019, this paper offers an ethnographic entry point to draw attention to the remapping of desires in the ‘posts’ and how the relocation of opportunities and their financing shapes livelihoods in Ishkoshim and beyond.

Panel P084a
Between promise and desire: what postcolonial and postsocialist lenses tell us about the realities of future-making I
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -