territory; modernity; Political Geography; Historical Geography; Central Asia; Soviet Union; archival research; oral history
Bichsel Christine (2013), Dangerous Divisions: Peace Building in the Borderlands of Post-Soviet Central Asia, in Raeymaekers Timothy, Korf Benedikt (ed.), Palgrave MacMillan, Basingstoke, 145.
Bichsel Christine (2013), Review of: “Government of Paper. The Materiality of Bureaucracy in Urban Pakistan", in Regional Studies
, 47(4), 645-646.
Bichsel Christine (2012), Liquid Challenges. Contested Water in Central Asia, in Sustainable Development Law and Policy
, XII(1), 24-30.
Bichsel Christine (2012), Review of: “Along the Archival Grain. Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense”, in Journal of Historical Geography
, 38(2), 198-199.
Bichsel Christine (2012), Review of: “Making great power identities in Russia. An ethnographic discourse analysis of education at a Russian elite university”, in Geographica Helvetica
, 1-2, 1-2.
Bichsel Christine (2012), The drought does not cause fear'. Irrigation history in Central Asia through James C. Scott's lenses, in Revue d'études comparatives Est-Ouest (RECEO)
, 44(1-2), 73-108.
Bichsel Christine, Mukhabbatov Kholnazar, Sherfedinov Lenzi (2011), Land, Water, and Ecology, in S. Frederick Starr (ed.), 253-277.
Bichsel Christine (2011), Review of: “Space, Place, and Power in Modern Russia. Essays in the New Spatial History”, in Ab Imperio
, 2, 372-377.
Bichsel Christine, Review of: “The Transformation of Tajikistan. The Sources of Statehood.”, in Europe-Asia Studies
The present project will examine the concepts and practices of territory in Soviet Central Asia during the period of 1953-1982. It starts from the observation that the dynamics of territory in post-socialist transformation have been insufficiently explained and a-historically understood. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia became independent nation-states. An important part of the ensuing social, political and economic upheavals in these states comprised de-territorialisation and re-territorialisation processes, i.e., social processes were disconnected and re-connected to geographical places. However, the existing accounts of these processes are mostly prescriptive and teleological, and hence fail to explain underlying notions of territory, and their historical constitution. At the same time, the existing studies on the history of Soviet Central Asia have so far privileged the Stalin era, and provide only anecdotal insights into concepts and practices of territory during the later years of the Soviet Union from which post-socialist transformation departs. With the present project, I attempt to address this gap in research and examine territory in Soviet Central Asia during the Khrushchev (1953-1964) and Brezhnev (1964-1982) eras. Thus, my project has three main objectives: 1) it attempts to conceptually explain the notion of territory in late Soviet modernity; 2) it aims to empirically illuminate territorial configurations in Central Asia during the Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras; and 3) it strives to provide a better understanding of post-socialist transformation by explaining its historical contingency. I focus on the following main research question: What were the concepts and practices of territory during the Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras in Central Asia? For this project, I conceive of territory as a form of socially produced space, drawing on Henry Lefebvre’s influential work. I understand territory as bounded space attributed with meaning. Equally, I approach Soviet modernity from a perspective of Historical Geography by exploring geographical processes that shaped the past, while at the same time critically reflecting on the ways in which this past is understood and culturally represented in the present. For this project, I adopt a case study design and explore three territorial configurations in Central Asia during the Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras: 1) Soviet republican borders; 2) collective and state farms; and 3) small towns. I select these three cases for their relevance as key territorial configurations that experienced de-territorialisation with Soviet disintegration, but were re-territorialised during post-socialist transformation. The first case will examine the diachronic border delimitations in Central Asia. It aims to explain territory in relation to the construction of the Soviet state, constituted by Soviet republics and Soviet nationalities. The second case will look into collective and state farms in order to explain territory in relation to Soviet rural modernity. The third case will explore the development of small towns in order to explain territory in relation to Soviet urban modernity. Empirically, I will conduct research on these three cases in the Ferghana Valley, a large intramontane basin in Central Asia shared by Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. My methodology combines two major sources of historical evidence used in Historical Geography: 1) official records of the state accessed through archival research; and 2) personal memory accessed through oral history interviews. Data will thus be comprised of documentary material from the Central State Archives of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and selected interviewees’ personal narratives related to the three case studies. Data will be collected during 7 months of field research in Central Asia. I will use content, textual and discourse analysis in order to analyse and interpret data. The present project contributes to the advancement of the discipline of Political Geography by theoretically and conceptually furthering engagement with its key concept territory. It contributes to Historical Geography by de-centring theorisation of modernity from a focus on the West with a study of Soviet modernity. Finally, it contributes to international efforts in the study of Soviet and Central Asian history to research the Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras. I plan to carry out this research in the Geography Unit of the Department of Geosciences at the University of Freiburg.