2023 publications: 2 papers, 1 report, 1 policy brief, many podcasts
As the new academic year rolls in, it is time to reflect on publications made in 2023.
All products are open access.
1. With some amazing colleagues, I co-authored a manifesto for a rural turn in media studies.
It is time for a rural turn in media studies. Media studies are deeply imbricated in urban life. It is where most universities are located. It is where many media scholars live and work. Media workers, too, predominately exist in the urban – at least for now. Embedded in these urban settings, media studies have too often focused on urban perspectives and considered rural dimensions largely from a ‘divides’ perspective, wherein the rural has somehow less than the urban; or media studies have treated the rural as seemingly utopic areas evoking the idyllic and romantic where city dwellers travel or the wild is preserved. But the rural is more than that. Key works on media in the rural do exist but the field lacks articulation. This article is a step towards addressing this weakness. Drawing on examples from three rural areas, those of Europe, Central Asia and Oceania, this article shows how rural media studies have the capacity to question ‘common sense’ assumption in media research and to demonstrate the complexities of contemporary mediascapes. The problems we see include issues of mediated representation and perception, issues of communication and the myriad of societal challenges that come, in particular, with digital transformations
2. With another group of passionate and wonderful scholars, I wrote on the role of Odnoklassniki platform in spreading Russian propaganda.
This forum focuses on the overlooked areas of the moment surrounding the nature and progression of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022. It brings together scholars of different disciplines, backgrounds, and locations to provide analyses of the Russian aggression from varying perspectives such as history, law, military studies, politics, and media and communications, to name a few, encouraging the authors to focus on intricacies to deliver a deeper analysis of the invasion. Each author offers a unique take on the analyses of the past and present. The forum has two aims. First, the collection raises the question “What did we miss?” and it aims to highlight the lack of attention by Western scholars to Russian perceptions of Western threats and the concerns of former Soviet countries regarding Russia's aggressive foreign policy. Second, the forum intends to start a conversation on different non-Western perspectives of thinking about the Russian invasion. The forum covers the events of the period from the beginning of the invasion up to July 2022, with some post-revision comments in the introduction and conclusion mentioning the events up to February 2023.
3. In collaboration with the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs I co-authored a report on Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border conflicts and the role of (social) media in the growing nationalism. We also cover lived experiences in border areas.
Fighting erupted on the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan from September 14 to September 19, 2022. It was the bloodiest conflict to take place between the two countries in recent history. Both sides used artillery and drones to bombard border villages and Tajik forces shelled the city of Batken in Kyrgyzstan. The conflict left 63 dead on the Kyrgyz side. Officially 41 were killed on the Tajik side. But Radio Ozodi reported that there were 60 casualties based on their own sources. Further, more than 400 people were wounded on both sides and 130,000 displaced inside Kyrgyzstan. Both sides accused each other of having started the conflict.
The Kyrgyz-Tajik border has been a site of sporadic disputes in past decades. Just 642 km of the countries’ 984 km border has been delimited, with disputes over the right of access to water, land and infrastructure sparking disagreements among local residents and military personnel. But recent border conflicts in April 2021 and September 2022 have signaled an escalation in scale, with the use of heavy weapons on both sides resulting in mass casualties. Coupled with this, the conflicts coincided with an unprecedented information war fought between the media and citizens in the online sphere.
Rather than examining who or what is responsible for the conflict, this report examines the framing of the border conflict by both sides through an analysis of official statements, perceptions of residents in border areas, and social media posts. We focus particularly on examples of chauvinism and ethno-nationalist tendencies, as well as inciting hatred between Kyrgyz and Tajiks. The report draws from an analysis of social media and official framings, but also fieldwork conducted in Batken in October 2022. The report seeks to highlight the following topics that emerged from the conversations with local stakeholders: trauma lived in armed conflict, uncertainty about the viability of Batken province as a peaceful place in the future, perceptions of state weakness and vulnerability, and the changing nature of the border conflicts. Unfortunately, due to the political situation and security reasons it was not possible to conduct fieldwork on the Tajik side of the border and present their perspective.
We compare the discourses from the previous major border conflict in April 2021 with September 2022, highlighting how tensions are escalating. For instance, in the Kyrgyz online sphere, there was an increase in the number of artistic illustrations created as a medium for narration of the events. The use of hashtags to create traceable digital archives of related social media posts also increased. If in 2021 Tajik social media users played a predominantly reactive role to posts generated in the Kyrgyz social media sphere, our analysis finds that in 2022 there was an increase in the volume of posts made by Tajik users, as well as an increase in thematic groups and channels on Facebook and Telegram. The appeal to the common Muslim identity between the two nations that was present in 2021 has been replaced with explicit nativist and racist discourses in 2022. A drastic shift towards inter-racial hostility was observed on both sides. On the Tajik side in particular, we saw numerous prominent individuals frame the conflict along religious lines as a struggle against non-believers. The Tajik side also involved various former civil war-era commanders, many of whom are not formally part of the Tajik armed services, who also framed the conflict along these lines.
4. A dear to my heart project on the narrative and perception of Russian propaganda in Kyrgyzstan.
• Russian media is massive and dominant in Kyrgyzstan. This is encouraged by the Kyrgyz authorities and accepted by international donors.
• The Russian news narrative hovers around notions of a confused Ukraine, an evil West, a holy Russia, and a dependent Kyrgyzstan.
• Russian media in Kyrgyzstan is regarded as of high quality, familiar, trustworthy, and a stable middle ground between the poor-quality local media and the amoral Western media.
Available in Kyrgyz, Russian and English.
5. With friends from Europe-Central Asia Monitoring we recorded several podcasts aimed at bringing Europe and Central Asia closer to each other. Join our 'Chat in the Yurt'!
Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/a-chat-in-the-yurt