UCLA International Institute
Asia Pacific Center

Advancing collaborative, interdisciplinary research on Asia worldwide


Modernization Narratives in Kazakhstan

A workshop led by Julia McLean

Wednesday, March 15, 2017
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Bunche 1221D (Geography Library)

This week’s discussion will explore modernization narratives in contemporary Kazakhstan, focusing specifically on the new capital city of Astana, site of the upcoming Expo 2017. We will build our discussion around Mateusz Laszczkowski’s (2011) “Building the future: Construction, temporality, and politics in Astana”.  Since its designation as capital city in 1997, the city—previously a nondescript provincial administrative center—has developed toward a new quarter of monumental, futuristic, and stylistically extravagant administrative, residential, and commercial buildings, commonly known as the "Left Bank." The construction efforts, Laszczkowski suggests, produce complicity by mobilizing and channeling citizens’ agency. Against the background of recent history, they offer a sense of restored progress-directed collectivity within which individual citizens can seek to engage, pursuing more meaningful and materially satisfying lives. A selective vision of the city is propagandized widely, producing a hyperreal space that captures imaginations, set in opposition to more “ordinary” social space. The contrast between that vision and the lived realities of Astana causes disillusionment, yet emic criticism of the political economy fails to transcend the logic of modernization narratives that the ideology of Astana’s construction rests upon. 

Laszczkowski, M. (2011). Building the future: construction, temporality, and politics in Astana. Focaal2011 (60), 77-92.


Sponsor(s): Program on Central Asia