Central Peripheries

Nationhood in Central Asia

Marlene Laruelle

ISBN: 9781800080133

Publication: July 01, 2021

Series: FRINGE

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Central Peripheries explores post-Soviet Central Asia through the prism of nation-building. It sees the region as an archetypal example of post-postmodernism. Although relative latecomers on the international scene, the Central Asian states see themselves as globalized, and yet in spite of – or perhaps precisely because of – this, they hold a very classical vision of the nation-state, rejecting the abolition of boundaries and the theory of the ‘death of the nation’. Their unabashed celebration of very classical nationhoods built on post-modern premises challenges the Western view of nationalism as a dying ideology that ought to have been transcended by post-national cosmopolitanism.

Marlene Laruelle looks at how states in the region have been navigating the construction of a nation in a post-imperial context where Russia remains the dominant power and cultural reference. She takes into consideration the ways in which the Soviet past has influenced the construction of national storylines, as well as the diversity of each state’s narratives and use of symbolic politics. Exploring state discourses, academic narratives and different forms of popular nationalist storytelling allows Laruelle to depict the complex construction of the national pantheon in the three decades since independence. The second half of the book focuses on Kazakhstan as the most hybrid national construction and a unique case study of nationhood in Eurasia.

Based on the principle that only multidisciplinarity can help us to untangle the puzzle of nationhood, Central Peripheries uses mixed methods, combining political science, intellectual history, sociology and cultural anthropology. It is inspired by two decades of fieldwork in the region and a deep knowledge of the region’s academia and political environment.

Marlene Laruelle is Professor at the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, The George Washington University in Washington D.C., U.S.A.

List of figures

Introduction: Central peripheries

Part I. Writing the national biography
1.The Longue Durée of national storytelling: Soviet roots and the quest for ethnogenesis
2.Centrality and autochthonism: Uzbekistan’s nationhood
3.Aryan mythology and ethnicism: Tajikistan’s nationhood
4.National unity vs. pluralism: Kyrgyzstan’s nationhood
5.Reborn nation, born-again religion? The case of Tengrism

Part II. Politics and the Nazarbayev order
6.Hybridity in nation-building: the Case of Kazakhstan
7.Ideology of the ‘Crossroads’: Eurasianism from Suleimenov to Nazarbayev
8.Media and the nation: searching for Kazakhness in televisual production
9.Language and ethnicity: the landscape of Kazakh nationalism
10.Generational changes: the Nazarbayev Generation

Conclusion: The missing pieces of Central Asia’s nationhood puzzle


‘Marlene Laruelle paves the way to the more focused and necessary outlook on Central Asia, a region that is not a periphery but a central space for emerging conceptual debates and complexities. Above all, the book is a product of Laruelle's trademark excellence in balancing empirical depth with vigorous theoretical advancements.’ – Diana T. Kudaibergenova, University of Cambridge ‘Using the concept of hybridity, Laruelle explores the multitude of historical, political and geopolitical factors that predetermine different ways of looking at nations and various configurations of nation-building in post-Soviet Central Asia. Those manifold contexts present a general picture of the transformation that the former southern periphery of the USSR has been going through in the past decades.’ – Sergey Abashin, European University at St Petersburg

Format: Open Access PDF

B&W illustrations

Copyright: © 2021

ISBN: 9781800080133

Publication: July 01, 2021

Series: FRINGE

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