Snejana Anatova interviewed me for “Voices on Central Asia“, a collaboration between the Central Asia Program (CAP) and the Central Asian Analytical Network (CAAN), both part of The George Washington University‘s Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (IERES). In this interview, Snejana asked me about my research interest in law, my fieldwork in rural Kyrygyzstan on the topic of legal pluralism and my recent co-edited volume on practices of traditionalization.
“Traditionalization is a practice that is not related to a particular way of life – be it nomadic or sedentary. It is an inherent capacity of all humans, a way to make sense of and order their world.”
In our introduction to this special issue of Central Asian Survey (later published as an edited volume with Routledge in their Central Asia series), Peter Finke and I show how a shift occurred in regard to how the concept of tradition has been employed in the region: while it was framed as the conceptual enemy that needed to be fought and ultimately overcome during the colonial expansion, it became an important tool of nation-building in the post-Soviet era. But the concept is also an emic category of non-elites. It is an important argument that people across Central Asia put forward in order to justify their actions or to contemplate their own and other’s behavior. It is a so-called ‘members’ category’ and needs to be understood from the perspective of the people we work with in the field. In our edited volume, we want to move beyond probing the ‘authenticity’ of particular ‘traditional practices’. Rather than deconstructing tradition in order to do away with it, we see here a site of necessary engagement. Tradition does matter in Central Asia, as it does in Africa and in Europe: it aggregates people, motivates individual and collective action, informs policy, public debates, law, and representation, and is – despite its often enough strategic inception – effectively powerful.
You can access the full interview here.