"Kyrgyzstan's Dordoy and Kara-Suu Bazaars: Eurasian Mobilities, Exchange, and Survival in a Post-Soviet Age"

Crossroads Asia Lecture by Hassan Karrar (Lahore University of Management Sciences)

Abstract of the announced lecture:

With a population of five-and-a-half million and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of barely six-and-a-half billion US dollars, Kyrgyzstan ranks amongst Asia's poorest countries. Nevertheless, this resource-deficient, former Soviet periphery boasts two of the largest wholesale markets on the continent: Dordoy bazaar (in the capital city Bishkek), where close to 20,000 shipping containers have been converted into shops since the early 1990s, and Kara-Suu bazaar (twenty-five kilometers from Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan), with approximately 8,000 shipping containers turned into shops. These bazaars, located along the geographical crossroads of Eurasia, serve as pivots in a commercial web that extends between Dubai, Guangzhou, Istanbul, Moscow, and Urumchi, and scores of smaller localities in between. The vast sprawl of these commercial networks across regions traditionally considered to have a cultural or geographical cohesiveness - Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia, West Asia and Europe - encourage us to approach Eurasia as having multiple layers of interconnectivity, and challenge us to reconsider how Cold War area studies defined regions.

In the summer of 2013, I conducted four hundred open-ended interviews with shopkeepers in Dordoy and Kara-Suu. Based on my field work, in this talk, I approach bazaars as (1) Rational and modern institutions where citizens negotiated the transition from communism by individually forging transnational connections, while staying within the parameters allowed by the state; (2) Encapsulating mobilities - of people, merchandise, capital and information - that does not stay confined to Central Asia, but weaves the distant corners of Eurasia into a commercial web; and, (3) Spaces that continue to serve a vital role as a survival mechanism in the absence of other lucrative opportunities.

Time and place: April 30th, 2014 at 2pm at ZEF, ground floor, right conference room.

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