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International Conference "Environment, Space and Identity in the Eurasian Region"

Workshop concept

The conference aims to study the interconnections between space, the environment and identity in the Eurasian region from different perspectives: extractive practices, religion and the sacred, and local citizenship movements. The Eurasian space, which the conference aims to explore, comprises the countries and regions between the two major powers Russia and India (Central Asia, Mongolia and the Indian subcontinent). By focusing on this region, we aim to go beyond studies that examine environmental debates in Western liberal states and economies to analyze how non-Western civilizational and state models influence the way in which the environment is approached.

A major aim of the conference is to bring the postcolonial and post-socialist conditions of the post-Soviet space and the Indian subcontinent together in order to explore the similarities (and differences) that make these regions comparable; and, through the Eurasian geography and discourse, to some extent entangled and connected. This world is ‘floating precariously’ (McLeod 2016) between neoliberal and neo-colonial global capital. We observe several phenomena emerging: extractivism through resource grab, migration flows, de-secularization, climate change, and the realpolitik of the rise of conservative powers.

The study of environmental encounters in the Eurasian space demands that we consider various legacies that are present in the region. Major among these legacies, which have influenced the relationship of humans with the natural environment, are Soviet modernity and the colonial experience. Both are characterized by the duality of ‘nature’ and ‘culture’, which is central to the modern era and which has shaped the radical societal, political and environmental changes of the 20th century in the Eurasian space. For example, the attempt to control ‘nature’ has profoundly affected community life and livelihoods, previously embedded in the natural environment through relations of singularity and sacred enchantments.

The attempts by the Soviet and colonial state to create new modern secular subjects have brought ‘disenchantment’ and a profound remodeling of the relationship between humans and the environment. Though post-colonialism has been preoccupied largely with the issues of identity politics, multiculturalism, and nationalism, an eco-critical turn in postcolonial studies has started to emerge (McLeod 2016), paving the way for a theoretical and practical engagement with environmental and ecological issues.

The Eurasian region can be conceived as a dynamic space in which new localized visions of orders and identities are emerging in attempts to ‘re-embed’ humans in their natural environment. They can take the form of movements to protect the natural space in a citizenship rights discourse, a re-enchantment of the relationship with nature or the re-establishment of a connection with ancestors, legends and myths as in the case of certain religious and indigenous communities.

Programme (timetable according to Moscow time zone)

Thursday, December 2nd

Friday, December 3rd

Conference programme (DOCX, 526 Кб)

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