How do specific secular and religious ideologies – such as nationalism, neoliberalism, evangelical Christianity, Tablighi Islam – gain popularity and when do they lose traction?
This round table takes as its starting point a recent monograph by LSE anthropologist Mathijs Pelkmans – Fragile Conviction: Changing Ideological Landscapes in Urban Kyrgyzstan. Ethnographically rooted in the everyday life of a former mining town, the book explores how residents have dealt with the existential and epistemic crises that arose after the collapse of the Soviet Empire. Observing that ideological commitment was often intense but rarely long-lasting, Fragile Conviction introduces the concept of pulsation to develop a novel temporal and relational theory of belief, which draws attention to the fact that ideas do not necessarily have a stable presence, but require boosts of energy to gain and retain their force. This dynamic is particularly evident in contexts of uncertainty, such as in Kyrgyzstan’s tumultuous trajectory following the collapse of the USSR. Invited speakers Catherine Alexander and Chris Hann will discuss the broader relevance of these findings and compare them with other settings in Central Asia. As such, the speakers will engage in a conversation about the role of belief, commitment, and doubt in the shaping of the (post-Soviet) world.
Catherine Alexander is Professor of Anthropology at Durham University. She has carried out fieldwork in Turkey, Britain, and in Kazakhstan, and has published extensively on the changing relations between state, market, and the environment. Her most recent fieldwork looks at how formerly elite closed ‘nuclear’ towns in Kazakhstan are trying to re-connect to broader economies. Her latest book (co-edited with Sanchez) is Indeterminacy: Waste, value, and the imagination.
Chris Hann is a Founding Director of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale, and a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He has published extensively on Eastern Europe, especially Hungary and Poland, both before and after the collapse of socialism. His most recent book is Repatriating Polányi. Market Society in the Visegrád States.
Mathijs Pelkmans is Associate Professor in LSE’s Anthropology Department. He has carried out four years of ethnographic fieldwork in different locations in Central Asia and the Caucasus, and has written about missionary movements, political turmoil, conspiracy theorizing, and the intersection of religion and politics.
Deborah James is Professor of Anthropology at the LSE. She is a specialist in the anthropology of South and Southern Africa, and has done research at some sites in the UK. Her most recent research project was titled ‘An ethnography of advice: between market, society and the declining welfare state’, and her latest book (2015) is Money from Nothing: Indebtedness and Aspiration in South Africa.
Twitter hashtags for this event: #LSEFestival #ShapetheWorld
This event is part of the LSE Festival: Shape the World running from Monday 2 to Saturday 7 March 2020, with a series of events exploring how social science can make the world a better place. The full programme will be online in January 2020.