The political ecology of Kyrgyz nature

Authors: Anne Sturød*,
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Asia, Tourism Geography
Keywords: Political ecology, Kyrgyzstan, post-socialism, tourism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8216, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

After independence in 1991, the former socialist republic of Kyrgyzstan embarked on a reformist path towards capitalism and liberalisation. The political and ideological polarisation between the east and the west, where the break-up of the Soviet Union was seen as a failure of socialist ideology as a whole, was replaced by a belief that market liberalisation was the way forward. However, ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world, with high unemployment and with the world’s highest share of GDP based on remittances (35%), Kyrgyzstan’s path towards market economy has been all but easy.

Drawing upon extensive field work in Kyrgyzstan, the paper discuss how Kyrgyzstan has moved from an ideology where the nature were thought of as a resource for building the Soviet state and harnessed as a common good, towards a nature that can be used for personal profit. The paper will explore this question in the context of Kyrgyzstan’s recent tourism development. The paper will discuss how tourism has become an arena of conflict between who gets to define how nature “ought” to be used and look like in order to attract tourists. The paper brings into question the political ecology of “untouched nature”, promoted as one of the key assets Kyrgyzstan has to sell to foreign tourists. By this the paper also asks if, and how, untouched nature can be harnessed as a common good?

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