International Conference "Environment, Space and Identity in the Eurasian Region"
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)
11.00 Welcome words & Introduction to the conference: Lili Di Puppo, Arnab Roy Chowdhury & Christian Froehlich
11.15 The topography of debt: Notes on exchange theory, Siberian Indigenous trade and political ecology of imperial space (Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov, HSE University, Saint Petersburg)
12.15 Changing Human-Landscape Relations, Continuity and Identity (Chair: Anna Strelnikova, HSE University, Moscow)
- Anna Varfolomeeva (University of Helsinki): Articulations of indigeneity in mining landscapes: Local visions of resource extraction in Northwestern Russia and Siberia
- Elizaveta Polukhina (HSE University, Moscow): Material culture of industrial neighborhoods: Housing, practices and identities in post-Soviet Russia
- Tobias Köllner (Private Universität Witten): A post-socialist palimpsest: On the restitution of property and the making of ‘authentic’ landscapes in contemporary Russia
13.45 Lunch Break
15.00 Land, Extraction and Memories of the Past (Chair: Victor Albert, HSE University, Moscow)
- Maurizio Totaro (Ghent University): Ancestral Petroscape: Oil, territory, and nationalism in Western Kazakhstan
- Manjusha Nair (George Mason University): Between land and the market: Mobilizations against land acquisition in India
- Elizabeth Bishop (Texas State University): Spaces of the Aswan high dam: Kremenchuk
16.30 Coffee Break
17.00 Postsocialist/postcolonial tempolocalities and decolonial sensibilities – towards the refuturing communities of change (Madina Tlostanova, Linköping University)
11.30 Land, Law, and Subaltern Resistance in India (Kenneth Bo Nielsen, University of Oslo)
12.30 Mobilization, (Im)material Resources and Local Cosmologies I (Chair: Daria Tereshina, HSE University, Moscow)
- Xeniya Prilutskaya (Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen): Air quality advocacy NGO in Bishkek and urban youth culture
- Anna Dupuy (EHESS-LAS): Genghis Khan, the environmentalist: Reinterpretation of Mongolian cosmologies through the “waste problem”
13.30 Lunch break
14.30 Mobilization, (Im)material Resources and Local Cosmologies II (Chair: Daria Tereshina, HSE University, Moscow)
- Shayan Shokrgozar (University of Stavanger, Norway): Desert geographies: Solar energy geographies of just transitions
- Jesko Schmoller (Humboldt University): The inner life of Toratau: Reviving tradition in the Southern Urals
15.30 Exclusionary extraction and energy geographies of just transitions (Siddharth Sareen, University of Stavanger, Norway)
16.30 Coffee Break
17.00 Final Roundtable: What does the dual post-Soviet / post-colonial lens tell us about environmental debates and movements beyond the Western world?