Unseen environmental and economic forces in Aral'sk, Kazakhstan, with William Wheeler, Goldsmiths University.
Part of Anthropology in the Anthropocene, Spring term seminar series.
The desiccation of the Aral Sea over the second half of the twentieth century is a globally famous ecological disaster, the outcome of Soviet irrigation practices in the USSR’s Central Asian periphery. Yet in the former port of Aral’sk, Kazakhstan, concerns today revolve around corruption and economic hardship following the region’s post-Soviet demise as much as around ecological problems. Ecological problems tend to be described locally with the word ekologiya, which refers largely to unseen particles in the air that damage human health. Strikingly, ekologiya, money and corruption are entangled in local discourses. In this paper, based on ‘kitchen conversations’ with my informants in Aral’sk, I explore local narratives about ecological and economic problems, arguing that they are a form of moral reasoning about unseen forces which impinge on local integrity. I contextualise my ethnography in literature on Kazakhstan which explores how the disastrous legacies of Soviet experiments on what was seen as a terra nullius intersect with new political-economic configurations.
Dates & times
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|17 Jan 2018||3:15pm - 5:15pm|
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