American University of Central Asia - AUCA - Memory and Space

Many studies today have focused upon the more official (and also the most visible) processes of the “resymbolisation” of the urban space in post-socialist countries, brought about by shifts in the historical and political stance of ruling elites in the “new nationalizing” states. These politically inspired changes to the urban environment have primarily been studied from a macro-level perspective. Research has explored how the (re)defining by those in key societal positions of a new national identity has led to the reshaping of urban spaces and objects overburdened with political/symbolic meanings.

 

Two lectures were delivered on the results of the research:

 

In the first lecture entitled “Search of a National Identity through the Reshaping of Urban Space: Views from Above and from Below”, the merits and limitations of this “top-down” research were identified (embracing Russian- and English-language literature). In spite of all the merits, this “top-down” approach fails to take into account the perceptions of ordinary citizens and how the latter both respond and adapt to the changes ongoing in their urban environment. These micro-level attitudes might vary, being, first, responses to modifications of institutionalized, state-sanctioned “places to remember”. Moreover, alternative forms of attachment to the past might emerge, at the level of the individual and/or group, in opposition to or in parallel with the symbols, markers, and sites proposed or imposed by the state.

 

In the second lecture entitled “Reminiscences of the ‘Soviet Past’ as a Form of Alternative Grass-Root Memory: Contexts and Images”, these forms of remembering were analyzed using rich empirical data collected among long-term residents of Ferghana and Bishkek between 2008 and 2012.

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