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Performance, representation and the economics of border control in Uzbekistan

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Nick MegoranORCiD


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This article explores the contradictions and intersections between the performative and economic aspects of state boundary control. From 1999 onwards, Uzbekistan's formal trade with its neighbours declined dramatically, whilst cross-border smuggling mushroomed. This article examines these developments, using both an economic analysis, and a theoretical approach to the study of international boundaries derived from political geography, anthropology and 'borders theory'. Methodologically, it employs trade-flow analysis, discourse study and ethnography to construct an account of how an apparently economically counterproductive policy has symbolic and performative value to the state. The changes in trade patterns were largely due to the unilateral introduction of a new and highly disruptive border and customs control policy, which dramatically increased transportation costs, precipitating a growth in smuggling in which some state officials themselves colluded. Economically, whilst this policy would thus appear harmful to the state, the article suggests that border control policies also had a theatrical function related to the performance of national identity and the perpetuation of the incumbent regime. It concludes with policy recommendations addressed to both Central Asian states and international donors. Copyright © 2005 Taylor & Francis, Inc.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Megoran N, Raballand G, Bouyjou J

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Geopolitics

Year: 2005

Volume: 10

Issue: 4

Pages: 712-740

Print publication date: 01/12/2005

ISSN (print): 1465-0045

ISSN (electronic): 1557-3028


DOI: 10.1080/14650040500318498