CREES Noon Lecture. “Uzbek Conundrum, or How a Society within a Society Was Built and Then Decimated in Kyrgyzstan, 1990-2010.”
Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan have lived in a predicament of double exclusion since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of the Central Asian republics in 1991. As “ethnic minority” citizens of a Kyrgyz-dominated state that has lurched toward increasingly strident nationalisms across successive political upheavals, they have been excluded from political power, status, and resources for being of the wrong ethnicity. But they are also excluded from neighboring Uzbekistan for being of the wrong citizenship. The Kyrgyzstani Uzbek leadership responded in the first two post-Soviet decades by building a “society within a society”: constructing urban institutions that served Kyrgyzstan’s Uzbek community–universities, media, mosques, charities, cultural centers. Yet, those were positioned discursively as loyal Kyrgyzstani institutions serving the common good of the republic. This carefully crafted positionality appropriated Soviet-inspired official rhetoric on Kyrgyzstan as the “common home” of all ethnicities and popular Islamic sensibilities of social justice. Their efforts in institution-building came to a sudden, violent end with the 2010 interethnic riots, where entire Uzbek neighborhoods and businesses were incinerated in what analysts call anti-Uzbek pogroms. This talk will explore the discursive balancing that Kyrgyzstani Uzbeks maintained between ethnically marked claims of injustice with universalistic imaginaries of the commonwealth. Dr. Liu will discuss the complex conceptual questions raised by recent events and past history.
Morgan Y. Liu is a cultural anthropologist studying Islamic revival, post-socialist states, and social justice movements. An associate professor of Anthropology in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at the Ohio State University, he teaches about the Middle East, Central Asia, Islamic revival and social justice, and cultural theory. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Society of Fellows, Harvard University. His 2002 Ph.D. is from the University of Michigan in Anthropology. His 2012 book, Under Solomon’s Throne: Uzbek Visions of Renewal in Osh, concerns how ethnic Uzbeks in the ancient Silk Road city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan think about political authority and post-Soviet transformations, based on research using vernacular language interviews and ethnographic fieldwork of urban social life from 1993 to 2011. Dr. Liu’s current research investigates Islamic notions of just society in Central Asia, and comparatively across the Middle East, Russia, China, and elsewhere in Asia. He wishes to investigate how Central Asians believe Islam could address structural problems such as “corruption” and social inequality.