“We Are Not Mutants”
Stihia Festival promised to be the Burning Man of Central Asia. On September 14, hundreds of revelers gathered in Moynaq, a once bustling port at the edge of the brimming Aral Sea, but now a dusty town in the Karakalpak autonomous region of northwestern Uzbekistan. Festival goers arrived from cities across Uzbekistan and other parts of Central Asia, Europe, and the US, hoping to rave to techno sets mixed by DJs from Tashkent, Moscow, Tbilisi, and Berlin. Media reports soon followed, describing the spectacle: the desolate landscape of a former sea-bed-turned-desert; electro-music as rain-song to call back the sea or, at least, to raise environmental awareness; the hundreds of curious locals who showed up to observe the festivities.
Continue reading Shifting Seas: The Lived Landscapes of Aral by Grace H. Zhou, Stanford University
Gendering a Tourist Economy
Ölgii, the capital city of Bayan-Ölgii Province, is a small city that one can stroll all over in just an afternoon. Since falconry’s title of cultural heritage was affirmed by UNESCO, the concept of heritage has been widely accepted by locals. Just as falconry became a vital connection to the Kazakh historical past, natural environment, and traditional culture across Eurasia, handicrafts have also allowed Kazakhs to maintain their identity and traditional knowledge as an ethnic minority in Mongolia, and have become an attribute of “authentic” Kazakhness. While Kazakh men take up the iconic image and profit from falconry as part of ethnic tourism and international spectacle, women have quietly become the backbone of a local informal economy, clearly represented by traditional handicraft production. Continue reading The Afterlives of Yurt Wall-hangings: Tus Kiiz by Guldana Salimjan, University of British Columbia
When I heard Kunduz, a major city in the north of Afghanistan, had been overtaken by the Taliban, I was shocked. The shock did not stem from surprise, or a disbelief that Talib fighters might be capable of such a victory, despite the psychological impact, the possible loss of morale, that the takeover led to. Kunduz had long been the most problematic city in the north of the country. A mix of ethnicities, interwoven with vying political factions, meant that the Taliban were able to take advantage while the city was essentially mismanaged. Continue reading Personal Reflections on Kunduz and the Bombing of the MSF Hospital