CHHU Public Lecture, Naryn: An Ethnography of Naryn River Life: When and How Does the River Matter in Naryn Province?

Date: 07 June 2019
Other languages: Кыргыз тили |
June 7th 2019, 4:00 pm
Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic
Dr. Jeanne Féaux de la Croix
Social Anthropologist, Tübingen University, Tübingen, Germany

Aibek Samakov
Doctoral student, Tübingen University

Bailieva Gulzat
Doctoral student, Tübingen University

Water distribution in Central Asia has long been contested, between the competing interests of irrigated agriculture, energy production through hydropower and different Soviet and post-Soviet republics and interest groups. Thе lecture will draw on ethnographic fieldwork, archival work and media analyses between 2014 and 2018 on attitudes towards crucial water bodies in Central Asia such as the Syr-Darya river and holy lake Issyk-Kul. With headwater glaciers melting and attempts to build new dams at a number of sites, water politics not only reflect relationships between riparian neighbor states, but also attitudes among riparian residents with different livelihoods and dependencies on rivers and lakes.

Drawing on political ecology and theories on the political role of emotions such as hope and fear, Dr. Jeanne Féaux de la Croix juxtaposes the reductionist discourses around available water volume to spiritual and religious modes of valueing water and its qualities. What effect do different modes of ‘fetishizing’ water have, and where might they bleed into each other and affect water uses and policies in the region? It is the first public presentation of Dr. Jeanne Féaux de la Croix’s fieldwork results in Naryn oblast.

Dr. Jeanne Féaux de la Croix, (PhD), is a social anthropologist based at Tübingen University, Tübingen, Germany. She holds an MSc in Social Anthropology, University of Oxford and defended her PhD ‘Moral Geographies in Kyrgyzstan: how pastures, dams and holy sites matter in striving for a good life’ at St. Andrews University, UK. Dr. Jeanne Féaux de la Croix directs several projects on the environment in Central Asia and also works on questions of Ageing, Labour and Development.

One of the project led by her is ‘Social Life” of a River: environmental histories, social worlds and conflict resolution along the Naryn-Syr Darya’, funded by Volkswagen Foundation. This three-year long research project, involving Central Asian anthropologists, political scientists and historians, aimed to produce a social and environmental history of the Naryn and Syr Darya river - the longest river in Central Asia, and second-largest feeder of the Aral Sea. Its water allocation has been a central source of conflict between upriver and downriver republics in the independence era due to opposing interests in hydropower and irrigation. The project seeks the re-appreciation of the Syr Darya as an object of enquiry, interaction and management, as part of unlocking the impasse over regional water management in Central Asia.

Aibek Samakov holds a Master’s degree from the University of Manitoba and is a doctoral student at Tübingen University. He conducted an ethnographic study in the Syr-Darya delta and Northern Aral Sea in Kazakhstan. The research focuses on common-pool resources such as fishing and reed beds on the river. 

Gulzat Baialieva (M.A.), is a doctoral student at Tübingen University. Using ethnographic and historical methods, she conducted research to uncover the memories of establishing hydropower and attendant industries in the lower Naryn area in the Soviet era, and their post-industrial afterlife.
University of Central Asia
School of Professional and Continuing Education
19 Seitaaly Jakypov Street
Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic
2nd Floor Seminar Room.

The presentation will be in Kyrgyz.

You are kindly requested to confirm your participation. Please email:

Ideas presented in this lecture reflect the personal opinion of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Central Asia and/or its employees.
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