CASNiG at CESS Summer conference Tashkent 2022

Double Panel on “The ideological legacies through which we think Central Asia” hosted by CASNiG

At the long-awaited summer conference of the Central Eurasian Studies Society in Tashkent, June 23-26, 2022, we organised a double panel, based on an idea born at the first CASNiG meeting in Augsburg. Six papers contributed to deconstruct the academic concepts that we use when studying Central Asia (see abstract and presentations below). In both well-attended sessions, concepts such as postsocialism, path dependency, and informality were scrutinized during a very lively discussion, and we felt the need for a deeper and more critical reflection of our analytical approaches and the consequences of using them in academia and beyond.

Reach out to the panel convenors Rune Steenberg and Ottavia Cima ( if you are interested in contributing to a Special Issue on this topic!


Western social sciences re-entered Central Asia along with the World Bank and IMF in the 1990s. It did so in a gush of triumphant end-of-historicism and ideological zeal. Terms that came to dominate the next decades of research like “transformation”, “transition”, “postsocialism”, “structural legacies”, “clan politics” and “informality” carried within them the unquestionable premises of the zeitgeist: of neo-liberal economism, state-centrism, neo-colonialism and evolutionism with capitalist characteristics. They are still being used in today’s much changed Central Asian reality, but are they being sufficiently examined, adapted or challenged? While unearthing and analysing Soviet legacies, how critically has the Central Asian studies community reflected or processed its own historical baggage? What are the ideological connotations of our current analytical approaches and terminology? According to Phillip Lottholz, much analysis of Central Asian politics and society are informed by normative notions of “an ideal type liberalism and democracy” that actually never existed anywhere in world history.

This panel seeks to critically examine popular analytical concepts in Central Asian studies and place them within a wider historical, political and economic context. Based on empirical data and/or literature reviews, each presenter will focus on one (or multiple) concept(s) and critically discuss their genealogy and usage within Central Asian studies. Presentations will be kept relatively short in order to secure ample space for collective reflections with the discussant (Ottavia Cima and Rune Steenberg), the chair (Paulina Simkin) and the audience.


  • Bakhtiiar Igamberdiev (Alatoo International University): Why Neoliberalism failed in Central Asia: An Economic, Institutional and epistemic analysis.
  • Michael Spies (University for Sustainable Development Eberswalde): Path dependence in Central Asia beyond postsocialism.
  • Ottavia Cima (University of Bern): Rethinking postsocialism through the lenses of postcapitalism: for a postcapitalist postsocialism.
  • Zarina Mukanova (University of Zurich): Failed nation-building and colonial narratives in Kazakhstan.
  • Katerina Zäch (University of Fribourg): The way material infrastructure thinks: Reconceiving heritage practice.
  • Kuat Akizhaov (KazGUU): Global development architecture: embedding the neoliberal socio-economic agenda in Kazakhstan.
  • Rune Steenberg (Palacky University in Olomouc): Informality, shadow economy, corruption, social capital, transformation and other state-centric analytical metaphors in Central Asian studies. Ideology in analysis.

Many thanks to everyone who made this conference so enjoyable. It was a pleasure to finally see many members of the extended CASNiG network in person, to catch up with their research and contributions, and to engage in so many interesting discussions.

Call for Papers – Knowledge Production in/on Central Asia: Forms, Purposes and Practices

Unversity of Fribourg (CH)/CASNiG Conference, 25-26 August 2022

What does it mean, to produce knowledge about a region? Who is generating this knowledge, where, and to what ends? What are the implications and the effects of these practices? The Fribourg 2022 conference, in collaboration with the Central Asian Studies Network in Germany (CASNiG), aims to inquire into the forms of knowledge being produced in and about Central Asia.

Download call for papers here

(submission deadline for abstracts: March 18th, 2022; full conference papers due by May 30th)

New CASNiG Publication “Beyond Post-Soviet: Layered Legacies and Transformations in Central Asia”

M. Schmidt, R. Steenberg, M. Spies & H. Alff (eds.) (2021): Beyond Post-Soviet: Layered Legacies and Transformations in Central Asia. (Geographica Augustana 33). Institut für Geographie, Universität Augsburg.

Thirty years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Central Asian republics are still often granted the epithet ‘post-Soviet’. While this is technically true, the region has been shaped and differentiated not only by seven decades of Soviet rule, but also by a pre-Soviet feudal and colonial history as well as various more recent phenomena and developments. Thus, each social phenomenon observed in Central Asia today has its own unique combination of elements from the past deriving from “layered legacies” — legacies of different phases that reinforce, interact with or contradict each other in complex ways, and can have very different consequences in local contexts.

This volume examines some of the region’s layered legacies by eclectically zooming in on topics, such as urban planning, water management, agricultural production, communal cooperation, migration patterns, ethnicity, Islam and gender. The overarching question explored across these different examples pertains to the relative relevance and dynamic interaction of these layers of legacies. Are Soviet structures still relevant today? How much was disrupted by the transformation efforts in the 1990s and to what degree are Central Asian republics affected by current global socio-economic and political dynamics today?

The publication outlines results of two workshops that were conducted in 2020 and 2021 in Augsburg and online from Eberswalde. They served as the first annual meetings of the Central Asian Studies Network in Germany (CASNiG), an open network of Central Asia researchers, to exchange ideas, concepts and findings, and promote collaboration, mutual support, and solidarity. This volume presents selected papers based on contributions from the two workshops, addressing contemporary issues and layered legacies in Central Asia. It was edited by Henryk Alff, Matthias Schmidt, Rune Steenberg, and Michael Spies. Authors include Gukzat Baialieva, Ottawia Cima, Andrei Dörre, Zarina Mukanova, Tabea Rohner, Jenniver Sehring, Wladimir Sgibnev, Martin Welp, and Katerina Zäch.

2nd CASNiG workshop held virtually in Eberswalde on March 4-5, 2021

The second annual CASNiG workshop entitled “Beyond post-Soviet: Path dependencies and new trajectories of change in Central Asia” was held as a web conference hosted by Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development.The event was organized by Martin Welp (Chair of Socioeconomics and Communication), Michael Spies and Henryk Alff (research group TRANSECT), and other colleagues.

In five topical sessions, ranging from discourses and memories in agriculture to conflict and cooperation in natural resource use and new urban transformations, junior and senior colleagues from a broad range of academic institutions in Germany and beyond presented and discussed ongoing research work.

About the workshop theme:
Almost three decades after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, legacies of the Soviet past are still a dominant research theme on Central Asia. By going beyond the post-Soviet category, the second CASNiG (Central Asian Studies Network in Germany) workshop aims to critically re-evaluate the role of path dependencies vis-à-vis new actors and processes in shaping current societal (including social-ecological) developments in the region. Among others, Central Asia has become subject to new geopolitical interests, encounters increasing global interdependencies of socioeconomic development, and is confronted with high vulnerabilities in the context of new long- and short-term crises such as climate change and global pandemics.