Introduction: Contested trajectories and a dynamic approach to place
Connecting history to a place is the condition of possibility for any social analysisde Certeau,
The Writing of History
In April 2011, in a climate of ongoing political upheaval in Kyrgyzstan, deputies of the
, the Kyrgyz parliament, debated a draft law that would accord specialstatus to a number of ‘strategic’ villages located along the country’s southern border withTajikistan.
Motivated by concerns at ‘creeping migration’—that is, the purchase or construction of homes in an area of un-demarcated borderland by citizens of Tajikistan— the draft law seeks to stabilise people and place, shoring up a border that is cast asdangerously porous and liable to shift through the illegal sale and purchase of private land plots. The proposed law, like others before it,
penalises those who illegally sell propertyat the border to citizens of neighbouring states. It also includes measures to “strengthenthe military-patriotic preparation of the population” of territories accorded special border status; to create the conditions to prevent Kyrgyz villagers from migrating away, and toencourage the movement into these border villages of Kyrgyz citizens from elsewhere inthe country (
Article 4). Collectively, as the preamble to the draft law suggests,such measures are intended to “strengthen the border territories of the Kyrgyz Republic;to guarantee her national security and to protect her territorial integrity and theinviolability of the national border” (
preamble, my translation).
This draft law is a timely reminder that movement is at once a basic humancapability and the target, potentially, of governmental intervention. In this instance thethreat of one kind of movement (the migration of Tajik citizens to ‘contested’, un-demarcated territory) is countered by promoting another kind of movement (the state-sponsored resettlement of Kyrgyz citizens from elsewhere in Kyrgyzstan) so as to