COMPASS Work in Progress Seminars 2020 – 2021
The schedule for the Summer term 2020-2021 at the University of Kent is available here.
25 June 2021 – ‘Preventing governance breakdown in the EU’s neighbourhood: Fostering resilience to strengthen security perceptions’– Dr Eric Stollenwerk
On 25 June 2021 the University of Kent team hosted WiPS webinar with Dr Eric Stollenwerk (German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) in Hamburg, Germany). The presentation focused on the European Union’s southern neighbourhood. The security situation of many citizens in this region is uncertain and local populations frequently feel insecure, which is an indication of governance breakdown. Resilience has become a new focus in preventing a breakdown of governance. Yet, the extent to which resilience can help prevent governance breakdown remains unclear. Building on original survey data from Libya and Tunisia the presentation contributed empirical evidence to the debate. It shows that limited statehood and order contestation do not necessarily lead to a breakdown of governance. Although both risks affect Tunisia and Libya to different degrees none of them are strongly correlated with the security perceptions of local populations. Additionally, resilience is key in preventing governance breakdown. Social trust and the legitimacy of governance actors are two main sources of resilience helping to prevent a breakdown of governance. Moreover, resilience has divergent effects on different dimensions of security governance breakdown. While resilience has stronger effects on national security perceptions, local security considerations are partly driven by other factors such as individuals’ economic resources.
24 June 2021 – ‘Eurasian integration projects: From organizations to initiatives’ – Prof. Roza Turarbekava
On 24 June 2021 the University of Kent team hosted WiPS webinar with Prof. Roza Turarbekava (Belarusian State University). Roza argued that digitalization of economy, education, health, security and defense systems have created new “easy” and “fast” forms of interaction and communication. Nation states, trying to adapt to these changes, are faced with new challenges: on the one hand, the continuation of integration processes, on the other hand, the inconsistency of the “heavy” and “slow” forms of international organizations with these changes. The Eurasian integration projects that have been proposed since 2000 (the Eurasian Economic Community, the Customs Union, the Common Economic Space, the Eurasian Economic Union) were partly an attempt to copy the forms of European integration. However, the absence of a core of values and the problem of the transition period from a planned economy to a market economy, as well as the difference in the strategy of political development, do not provide a solid basis for the creation of the Union. However, the social and political demand for the integration of the Eurasian space continues to persist. Therefore, taking into account the global dimension, which was mentioned above and the specifics of the regional dimension, initiatives such as the Eastern Partnership and the Belt and Road Initiative are becoming more attractive.
20 May 2021 – ‘The ‘good life’ as an alternative to neo-liberal governance: proposing a post-development approach to EU resilience governance in Central Asia’– Prof. Fabienne Bossuyt
On 20 May 2021 the University of Kent team hosted WiPS webinar with Prof. Fabienne Bossuyt (Ghent University). Prof. Bossuyt presentsed her draft paper ‘The ‘good life’ as an alternative to neo-liberal governance: proposing a post-development approach to EU resilience governance in Central Asia’. Drawing on post-development thinking, the paper further advances the nascent scholarship that critically engages with the European Union (EU)’s approach to resilience as part of the EU’s external governance policy. Considering the limited effectiveness of the EU’s promotion of governance in its neighbourhood and further afield, the paper joins those scholars who argue in favour of a radical departure from the neo-liberal approach that the EU follows in its conceptualization and promotion of resilience in third countries. In the EU’s new Strategy for Central Asia, which was launched in May 2019, boosting the resilience of the Central Asian societies is singled out as a key priority. The paper argues that if the EU is serious about promoting resilience as a way to empower ‘the local’ and contribute towards a truly sustainable future for the societies of the Central Asian countries, then the EU will need to embrace a de-centered, post-neoliberal approach to resilience. This implies that the EU would have to accept ‘the other’ – in this case, the Central Asian societies – for what they are and advocate home-grown self-organisation predicated on a deep understanding of the local meaning of good life. Empirical illustrations to substantiate this claim are drawn from a concrete case, namely the Mahallas in Uzbekistan.
13 May 2021 – ‘The Dynamics of Reciprocity and Networks of the Kyrgyz through Toi-making: The Case of Bishkek’– Prof. Cholpon Turdalieva
On 13 May 2021 the University of Kent held the WiPS session with Prof. Cholpon Turdalieva (American University of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan) titled ‘The Dynamics of Reciprocity and Networks of the Kyrgyz through Toi-making: The Case of Bishkek’. Prof. Turdalieva argued that important life-cycle events in Kyrgyz society are marked by the staging of large informal feasting celebrations, known collectively as toi. Recognizing the broader social significance of such celebrations beyond the basic observance of life-cycle events, scholars have analyzed the ‘toi economy’ (Rubinov 2010) highlighting the importance of economic exchanges that occur around toi. Expanding Rubinov’s analysis of the toi economy, this seminar discussed continuity and change in the materiality and symbolism of toi making specifically in an urban context, in Bishkek the capital city of Kyrgyzstan. In this presentation Prof. Turdalieva analyzed toi making and factors that have influenced its evolution in the post-Soviet Bishkek and New York, which became a host for thousands of Kyrgyz emigrants and migrants. In order to show more particularities related to Kyrgyz toi in both cities, the seminar presented historical discussion alongside ethnographic interview case materials of a recent wedding celebration.
22 April 2021 – ‘Internal Aspects of Stability in Central Asia: Regional Integration and Disintegration’’– Dr Farrukh Salimov
On 22 April 2021 the University of Kent held the WiPS session with Dr Farrukh Salimov (Tajik National University). Dr Salimov argued that Central Asia becomes one of the key sub-regions of Central Eurasia, actively participating in a number of international cooperation and integration projects. Regional stability remains one of the cornerstone factors for sustainable development of the region. This presentation addressed the factors of internal aspects of regional stability in Central Asia, with a particular focus on Tajikistan. It discussed some of the major trends in the local socio-economic development, and internal and external challenges to stability. Integration and disintegration processes, reasons behind them and potential risks were assessed. The presentation also highlighted potential scenarios for future of regional integration in view of wider regional stability of Central Asia. The recording will be available on the website shortly.
18 March 2021 – ‘The Nationhood through Neighbourhood? Post-coloniality and Emerging Features of Central Asian International Relations’ – Prof. Timur Dadabaev
On 18 March 2021 the University of Kent held the WiPS session with Prof. Timur Dadabaev (University of Tsukuba, Japan). Prof. Dadabaev presented his ongoing research on post-coloniality in International Relations, particularly in the Central Asian region. By revisiting the main theoretical assumptions which are widely used to narrate the features of International Relations in Central Asia, the talk demonstrated that the major deficiency of theoretical frames applied to Central Asian (CA) region is that they extensively rely on rationalist arguments along the lines of rivalry, domination, spheres of influence, and the rhetoric of ‘divide and conquer’. This way they miss out the local dynamics of emerging CA regional international relations such as neighbourhood, brotherhood/fraternity and local norms that serve among distinctive features of international relations in Central Asia.
11 March 2021 – ‘Is There Room for More Engagement with Muslim Civil Society in Central Asia? Disaggregating Its Multipole Components, Approaches and Goals’ – Dr Emil Nasritdinov
On 11 March 2021 the University of Kent held the WiPS session with Dr Emil Nasritdinov (American University of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan). Dr Nasritdinov presented preliminary findings of the project on the role of Muslim civil society in Central Asia. He argued it is a growing unique form of civil society that appeals to civic engagement that is in harmony with Islamic values, and can therefore maintain conservative ideas such as gender-specific segregation, respect for the elderly, supremacy of the collective over the individual, and tradition over innovation. The presentation focused on six forms of Muslim civil society in four countries (Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan): Muftiyats, Islamic Foundations, Islamic NGOs, various jamaats, mosques and mahallas. The research is co-authored by Dr Sebastien Peyrouse (George Washington University) and Dr Emil Nasritdinov (American University of Central Asia) and supported by the United State Institute for Peace.
18 February 2021 – ‘COVID-19 and its impact on Azerbaijan: Is the system resilient enough?’’ – Dr Anar Valiyev
On 28 January 2021 the University of Kent held the WiPS session with Dr Anar Valiyev titled ‘COVID-19 and its impact on Azerbaijan: Is the system resilient enough?’. Anar argued that COVID-19 had significantly impacted many countries of post-Soviet Eurasia, affecting both political and economic realms. The echoes of it will continue to shape the future of these societies for a long period of time. Azerbaijan from this perspective is not an exception, suffering from the pandemic and paying price. All problems inherited by country previously, are expected to exacerbate within a few years, forcing government to start restructuring Azerbaijan’s economic system. The presentation examined possible impact of COVID-19 on political and economic situation in Azerbaijan, attempted to predict the future implications of the government’s actions on the system and offered a range of policy recommendations for greater resilience.
28 January 2021 – ‘Functions of the Uzbek community (mahalla) after independence’ – Dr Nodira Azimova
On 28 January 2021 the University of Kent held the first Work-in-Progress Seminar (WiPS) of the Spring term. Dr. Nodira Azimova from the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences, Republic of Uzbekistan delivered a talk ‘Functions of the Uzbek community (mahalla) after independence’. Nodira argued that speaking of mahalla, many analysts often refer not to mahalla per se, but rather to its administration. This is because the term ‘mahalla’ means both – a community of people and the administration organisation of this community, mahalla committee. Mahalla as a community is a self-regulating living organism with a range of functions, which is much broader than the functions of a mahalla committee, although they may coincide to a degree. To illustrate this, Nodira discusses the interaction of a community and its administration taking the example of communal ceremonies. For instance, mahalla committee oversights the implementation of a range of standards regarding wedding ceremonies. However, the real regulator of a wedding cycle is the phenomenon of Orzu Khavas (dream). It shapes the perceptions of a community about an ideal wedding, including pre-wedding, wedding day and post-wedding stages, where the entire mahalla participates, whereas the mahalla committee only focuses on the formal wedding ceremony. Such analysis of micro-practices allows us to trace socio-cultural life of mahalla from a quantitative and qualitative perspectives through the understanding of the interaction of the community and its administration.
3 December 2020 – ‘Public Attitudes towards Scotland’s Constitutional Future in 1999-2011: Main Alternatives, Reasons for Support and Dynamics of Their Popularity’ – Ihar Kurs
On 3 December 2020 the University of Kent held the final Work-in-Progress Seminar (WiPS) of the Autumn term. Ihar Kurs, doctoral researcher from the Belarusian State University, presented his ongoing research “Public Attitudes towards Scotland’s Constitutional Future in 1999-2011: Main Alternatives, Reasons for Support and Dynamics of Their Popularity”. Ihar argued that since the beginning of the Scottish devolution and the resumption of the regional parliament in 1999, Scotland has entered into a new phase of political development. From then, the discussion about the potential constitutional status of the region centered around three main alternatives: independence of Scotland, preservation of the current arrangement introduced by the devolution, or a return to the position before 1999. Although the second option was the most popular, the levels of support for all of these alternatives were varying throughout the observed period. Among the factors that influenced this were the success of the current activities of local political forces that take alternative positions on the future of the region, the position of the central government in London and the general socioeconomic context. The talk examined the influence of each of these factors, the dynamics of support for various options for the future of the region up to the elections to the Scottish Parliament in 2011, and explained the motivation of the supporters of each option.
19 November 2020 – ‘Territorial Autonomy and Separatism: Ethnic Conflicts in the South Caucasus in the post-Soviet Period’ – Gunel Madadli
On 19 November 2020 the University of Kent held a Work-in-Progress Seminar (WiPS) with Gunel Madadli, a graduate student at ADA University in Azerbaijan. The discussion focused on Gunel’s doctoral proposal “Territorial Autonomy and Separatism: Ethnic Conflicts in the South Caucasus in the post-Soviet Period”. Gunel argued that the relationship between autonomy and separatist movements is a frequently discussed topic due to its significance in the self-management of minority groups. The aim of the presentation was to discuss the framework for analysis of whether territorial autonomy was a contributing factor to the violent ethnic conflicts and separatist movements in the South Caucasus. Considering several ethnic conflicts had demands for autonomy and some ethnic conflicts have been resolved by concession of autonomy, Gunel questioned whether territorial autonomy has become a strategy for defusing conflict.
12 November 2020 – ‘The school-to-work transition of young people in Azerbaijan: Is the state youth policy capable of providing needed support to ensure a smooth transition?’ – Abbas Babayev
On 12 November 2020 the University of Kent held a Work-in-Progress Seminar (WiPS) with Abbas Babayev, a graduate student of Public Administration (MPA) at ADA University in Azerbaijan. Abbas presented his master’s thesis “The school-to-work transition of young people in Azerbaijan: Is the state youth policy capable of providing needed support to ensure a smooth transition?”, which he successfully defended a day earlier. Despite the national Government’s recognition for its commitment to youth development, Azerbaijan is listed among the countries with the highest share of youth not in employment, education, or training (NEET youth). The NEET indicator is considered by international organizations to be a more comprehensive indicator of troubled youth transitions from school to work. An extensive exploratory analysis of primary sources collected in Azerbaijan in 2020 shows that while the legal and policy documents concerning Azerbaijan’s state youth policy envisage actions aimed at supporting youth in their school-to-work transition, their realization is significantly undermined by many impediments, including institutional constraints related to the management of the national youth sector as well as external impediments, which are not at the disposal of policymakers responsible for the youth sector.
8 October 2020 – ‘The agency of small states: The foreign policy of Belarus’– Paul Hansbury
Following a series of very insightful presentations and good discussions in 2019-2020, on 8 October our COMPASS project affiliate Dr Paul Hansbury presented his paper ‘The agency of small states: The foreign policy of Belarus’ at the first COMPASS WiPS of this new academic year. In the presentation Paul reflected how small states present a challenge from the perspective of International Relations theory, frequently attaining foreign policy goals against the wishes of great powers. He argued that disagreement among the policy elite within the small state in the early phase of foreign policy formulation translates into the attainment of goals (used as a proxy for agency) by granting the small state the flexibility to monitor and adapt its subsequent actions without provoking external powers. His presentation also used Belarus’s de facto policy of non-recognition in respect of Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s sovereignty after the 2008 Russo-Georgia War to illustrate its argument. He concluded with some thoughts on the implications of Belarus’s 2020 post-election situation – and the policy elite’s response – for the state’s agency in its international relations.