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Contesting danger: a new agenda for policy and scholarship on Central Asia

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Nick MegoranORCiD


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Western geopolitical discourse misrepresents and constructs Central Asia as an inherently and essentially dangerous place. This article identifies how the region is made knowable to a US–UK audience through three mutually reinforcing dimensions of endangerment: Central Asia as obscure, oriental, and fractious. This is evidenced in the writings of conflict resolution and security analysts, the practices of governments, the activities of international aid agencies, and numerous lurid films, documentaries and novels. It is argued that this pervasive ‘discourse of danger’ obscures knowledge of the region, deforms scholarship and, because it has policy implications, actually endangers Central Asia. This argument is demonstrated through a discussion of how policy-making and practice is informed by this discourse of danger, and considered with reference to the violence in Osh in 2010. It concludes by raising the challenge to policy-makers, journalists and academics to contest this western geopolitical discourse and provide better accounts of how danger is experienced by Central Asians.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Heathershaw J, Megoran N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Affairs

Year: 2011

Volume: 87

Issue: 3

Pages: 589-612

Print publication date: 03/05/2011

ISSN (print): 0020-5850

ISSN (electronic): 1468-2346

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2346.2011.00992.x

Notes: Sets an agenda for Central Asian studies. Presented at the UK's leading think-tank on foreign affaris, Chatham House, as an invited seminar. 50% each


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