Pierre Bourdieu (1930 – 2002)

by Brook Bolander

pierre-bourdieuPierre Bourdieu is undoubtedly one of the best known sociologists of the twentieth century, and a scholar whose work continues to influence sociology, anthropology, linguistics and philosophy, as well as social theory more generally. Born in Denguin, France, in 1930, Bourdieu attended the renowned École normale supérieure university in Paris. After his studies in Paris, he taught in a provincial school before being sent to Algeria in 1956, where he spent two years in the French army, and then two further years doing fieldwork and collecting data. After returning in 1960, he spent the majority of his life as a scholar in Paris, where he was a director of studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études and chair of sociology at the Collège de France. Continue reading

Emile Durkheim (1858–1917)

by Andrea Rota

Emile_DurkheimI am very happy to introduce the first contribution of our special series of “My Take On…” titled “Social Science for Central Eurasia”. In this new format CESMI and the BBC Central Asia Service jointly seek to make the work and lives of important social scientist thinkers more accessible to a broader media audience. We also encourage our authors to reflect upon the explanations that these thinkers might have to offer for a better understanding of the contemporary societies of Central Eurasia. In order to provide accessibility across different linguistic settings the contributions are published in English, Kyrgyz and Uzbek. (Till Mostowlansky, editor “My Take On…”)

Emile Durkheim is widely considered the founder of the French school of sociology. He was born in 1858 in the small French town of Epinal, near the German border. Son of a rabbi and raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, he was meant to follow in his father’s footsteps. Young Emile, however, chose another path and, after a few setbacks, enrolled in the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris, the most prestigious institution of higher instruction in France. The years at ENS proved crucial. Not only did it inspire Durkheim’s intellectual development, it also shaped his political and religious views, which were increasingly informed by socialist ideas. Continue reading

The Waiting Game of Kazakhstan’s Nation-Building

by Diana T. Kudaibergenova

DKSince the mid 2000s, amongst political and non-political circles, the question of when Kazakhstan would become a real nation had turned into a fixation point. Numerous state programs and development strategies seemed to raise more questions rather than give answers to the growing demands of Kazakh national-patriots. During this time, unofficial and official media outlets presented programs in the Russian language, initiating debates surrounding ‘concrete’ nation-building projects. The multiplicity of national discourse, symbols and opinions within Kazakhstan had intentionally been facilitated by the regime. For various nationalist and semi civic signifiers, the completed project of the ‘national idea’ became a strategically ambiguous field as well as a waiting game for the elites. The past Soviet tradition of a concrete nationalist policy and definitive nation-building through a state language had a decade later, transformed into a growing demand amongst national patriots and their sympathizers. Continue reading

Involving Communities in Pasture Management: The Challenge of Pasture Committees in Kyrgyzstan

by Irène Mestre

Irene MestreWhen I arrived in Kyrgyzstan to investigate pasture management in July 2010, the new Law “On Pastures” had been in place for only just over a year (it was released on January 29, 2009). During summer 2010, the content of the new pastoral regulation was hardly known by pasture users, or by governmental and local self-governance employees (ayil okmotu, equivalent to municipalities). That was only a few months after the 2010 protests which overthrew President Bakiev and tensions around this so-called “Bakiev’s Law” were perceptible. After years of centralized management, the law aimed at implementing a community-based management of pastures. At the village level (ayil ayimak), all pasture users are members of the Pasture Users Association (PUA) and elect the Pasture Committee (PC). This is the executive body in charge of managing, allocating and monitoring pastures. It collects pasture use fees and manages its own budget. Part of it, the land tax, is transferred to the central budget as pastures are state property. The new law carries environmental, economic, and social expectations: the degradation of pastures underpinned the promotion of this model and made sustainable management essential. The law also intended to improve social equity by ensuring equal access to all pasture users and to foster long term economic benefits by preserving resources for livestock production. Continue reading

Missing Girls: Sex-Selective Abortions in the South Caucasus

by Melanie Krebs

AutorenfotoAt times during fieldwork you get the impression that nothing will surprise you anymore. You have heard the most unexpected stories in the strangest situations and what seemed to be alien at the beginning has become part of everyday life. And then something happens that catches you completely off guard. For me it was the casual comment a member of PINK Armenia, a sexual rights organization in Yerevan, made during an interview:  “… and then we have all the abortions of girls. In this way we have outnumbered China and India over the previous years.” Looking at my shocked face he asked, “You did know that, didn’t you?” No, I did not. But as I learned over the next days, I was the only one. It seems the fact that (according to the CIA factbook) there are 114 boys born for every 100 girls in Armenia was the best-known secret in the country. And Armenia is no exception in the South Caucasus: The rate in Azerbaijan is 112 boys to every 100 girls and with 108 to 100, Georgia is better but still higher than the “natural” rate of 105 to 100. Continue reading