Central Asia displays a huge range of environments, from glaciated mountains and large lakes to steppes and intensely cultivated oases. This research group focuses on the recent impact of an ‘Anthropocene’ era of intensified human-generated change, starkly evident in the disappearance of the Aral Sea, but also in less visible ‘creeping catastrophes’ such as urban air pollution, growing water pressures and glacial loss. The areas that we focus on in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan experienced huge transformations during the Soviet period as new factories, mines and major dams were built, and as steppes were put under the plough for large-scale farming. Since the 1990s, the independent Central Asian republics have taken increasingly divergent political and economic paths, despite their common Soviet legacy, shared water basins and entangled energy and transport infrastructure.
Grounded in social anthropology, researchers in this team draw on environmental history and political ecology to examine how different kinds of human actors, political and economic structures have faced the elements: especially water, soils and air. We enquire how these elements have been affected by Soviet era policies such as the planting of thirsty cotton crops, discontinuities such as disintegrating irrigation networks, or new industrial and transport projects by Chinese investors. Drawing on new directions in Environmental Humanities, our team treads the boundaries of where ‘society’ and ‘environment’ begin and end, and where they cease to be distinguishable, taken-for-granted research objects.
The group intersects closely with two other research groups on soil and rivers:
> Volkswagen Project "The “Social Life” of a River: environmental histories, social worlds and conflict resolution along the Naryn-Syr Darya" [link]
> Collaborative Research Center 'Threatened Orders (CRC 923): "Salinization and soil degradation as threats to the agrarian orders in Russia, Kazakhstan/Tajikistan and Australia since 1945"
> Collaborative Research Centre "ResourceCultures" (SFB 1070) [link]
January 2020 Departmental Writing Workshop
January 2020 Rituals: Performance, Symbolic Communication or Habit?
March 2020 Attempts to define Sacredness
April 2020 From Eco-Nationalism to Eco-Racism?
April 2020 Public Emotions
May 2020 Methods Discussion around the red-letter Word ‘Bias’
May 2020 Visual Media and Affect
June 2020 Formal Debate: Post-Socialism – a useful category?
June 2020 Anthropology of Futures and Uncertainties
June 2020 Animal Agencies
October 2020 Soft Infrastructures
December 2020 Departmental Writing Workshop
December 2020 Virtual Ethnographies
February 2019 Environmental Anthropologies: Writing Workshop with Eveline Dürr
March 2019 Differentiating Toxicity and Pollution?
May 2019 Departmental Writing Workshop
October 2019 Climate Change and the Adaptation Discourse
October 2019 The Anthropology of Hydro-Sciences
November 2019 Postcolonial Takes on Environmental Philosophy
December 2019 Environmental Values
January 2018: Ethnographies of Air Pollution and “Slow Violence”
November 2018: Relating Latour’s Work to Environmental Ethnography
March 2018: Nature Writing: where from, how and what for?
May 2018: Multi-Species Anthropology
October 2018: Departmental Writing Workshop
February 2018: The Soviet Sanatoria Tradition and Post-Soviet Health Practices
Junior Research Group, funded by the Excellence Initiative University of Tübingen
1. Group leader: Dr. Jeanne Féaux de la Croix
2. Term: 2014-2017
3. Group members: Dr. Flora Roberts, Nurzat Sultanalieva, M.A., Xeniya Prilutskaya (M.A.)
4. Research location: Central Asia
Across the world, there are enormous inequalities in people’s access to fresh water, with climate change likely to further exacerbate the situation.
As a group of environmental anthropologists and historians, we set out to trace people’s changing attitudes to water in Central Asia. We pursue historically-informed research on moral economies of water in a landlocked region where most agriculture depends on irrigation.
We ask in what contexts water in Central Asia was and is treated as sacred, as a public or private resource (in various formats) or used to produce other resources such as electricity and cotton.
Dr. Flora Roberts joined the group in 2016 to pursue a history of the ‘Tajik Sea’, the Kairakum reservoir established in the post-war Ferghana valley (PostDoc). She shares an interest in Soviet tourism and sanatoria with Nurzat Sultanalieva’s ethnography of water on holy lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan (PhD project since 2014). Group leader Dr. Jeanne Féaux de la Croix has been conducting research with pastoralists, dam-builders and teenage residents on the Naryn river of Kyrgyzstan, using participatory video and biographic methods since 2014.
The group collaborates closely with a number of related projects in Tübingen (overview):
Our offices can be found in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology in Tübingen castle and Gartenstraße 19.