Conference (Sept. 27-28, 2013, Bishkek) : Constructing Authority through Custom and Tradition

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All Central Asian states are currently involved in the global circulation of worldviews, values, ideas and commodities. Yet, the fascination with freedom or the desire to be part of the “modern world” goes hand in hand with various manifestations of criticism and resistance. As often as not, the latter mobilize custom and tradition, or at least refer to them or manufacture versions of them, in an attempt to counter the Western neoliberal model and promulgate alternative ways of being “modern”.

For its Third Annual Conference, the Central Asian Studies Institute (CASI) at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, invites contributions on “Constructing Authority through Custom and Tradition”. We conceptualize “authority” as “a relation based on respect and credibility”. In most of the existing studies on the topic, authority is considered as an attribute and a social actor either has it or does not have it. We suggest instead a focus on the dynamics of authority construction, the complex processes of achieving, communicating and retaining authority as well as on the concurrent processes of contestation and deconstruction. We would also like to foreground the processes or practices of constructing/deconstructing authority with reference to custom and tradition. Which social actors in Central Asia use custom and tradition in order to pursue authority? In which social fields and for which reasons? What are the individual or collective strategies of constructing authority with reference to custom and tradition? And, finally, how are custom and tradition, as sources of authority, recovered, created, invented, assessed and reassessed?

Contributions from all fields of social science research are welcome as long as they foreground the interplay between multiple “modernities” and provide empirical material on or theoretical interpretations of current and past processes or practices of  constructing authority.


American University of Central Asia
205 Abdymomunov St., Bishkek
Room 403, 4th floor

The detailed programme of the conference is here

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