Eurasian Studies Program invites you to a public lecture by Florian Mühlfried (University of Jena) Sept 7, 7:30 p.m., Block C3, 2004.

“We Love Death more than You Love Life” What Jihadists, Thieves in Law and Abreks from the Caucasus Have in Common

In a recent book, Oliver Roy argues that a significant part of the global appeal of the Islamic State lies in its death romanticisation equally popular in youth culture and shared by other millenialist revolutionary movements. This argument is problematic as it entails a high degree of speculation about jihadists’ ‘real’ motivation and attitude. Still, it importantly directs our attention to the cultural embeddedness of the figure of death seeker as well as its fictive genealogies. In my presentation, I will follow this thread and outline a genealogy of role models centred on the motive of embracing death while still alive. All of these role models are vividly present in contemporary discourses all over the Caucasus. The first role model is the so- called Abrek, a Caucasian bandit-come-rebel elevated to resistance fighter in the 19th century. The second is the ‘thief in law’, a criminal authority emerging from the Soviet prison camp system who, in later years, was often a Georgian. The third is the jihadi fighter of late, who has joined the international movement and commits suicide bombings in the Caucasus and beyond. In all three cases, embracing death is represented as a means of empowerment, and those who have allegedly transcended the fear of death are praised as much more powerful than their adversaries (even though these may be more powerful technically). By tracing some cultural roots of the death cult in the ideology of jihadi fighters from the Caucasus, the discourse on global jihadism is purposefully provincialized; the aim is to de-mystify global jihadism and to identify areas of intersection between jihadi ideology and local countercultures.

Bio: Florian Mühlfried teaches in the Caucasus Studies Program at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena. He is the author of Being a State and States of Being in Highland Georgia (2014) and Post-Soviet Feasting: The Georgian Banquet in Transition (2006, in German). His research interests include issues of citizenship, the state, ritual, feasting, and mistrust.

The public lecture is given within the framework of the Joint Central Asia/South Caucasus Projects Summer School and is funded by Volkswagen Foundation

Eurasian Studies Program invites you to a public lecture by Svetlana Jacquesson (AUCA) Sept 6, 7:30 p.m., Block C3, 2004.

Empowered by Translocality? Affordances and Constraints of a Research Perspective

In this presentation, I will speak for a team of scholars, and I hope I will do it correctly. I will start by outlining the conceptual frameworks of a research project on “Translocal Goods – Education, Work and Commodities between Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, China and the Arab Emirates” funded by the Volkswagen foundation in 2013. This outline will be articulated around “translocality”, and why and how it was found useful for studying Central Asia. In this part of my presentation, I will mostly follow Manja Stephan-Emmrich and Philipp Schroeder — two of the leading members of the project who introduced translocality as a research perspective to the team — though I will also emphasize aspects of translocality that I “discovered” by myself. Second, I will offer a review of the ways in which the translocal perspective was applied by a team of scholars of Central Asia, me included. Though I will speak as truthfully as possible for my colleagues, I will spend more time on my own contribution since it is here that I feel most confident. I will finish by some reflections on research perspectives, their affordances and constraints, and on the role of research perspectives in the research projects funded by the Volkswagen foundation. Surprisingly or not, my concluding reflections will connect again to some of the insights that translocality can offer as a research perspective.

The public lecture is given within the framework of the Joint Central Asia/South Caucasus Projects Summer School and is funded by Volkswagen Foundation


Svetlana Jacquesson is the director of the Central Asian Studies Institute at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and head of the MA program in Central Asian studies at the same university. She holds a PhD in ethnology (2000) from the National Institute of Oriental Languages and the High School for Social Sciences in Paris, France. After her PhD, she was first elected research fellow at the French Institute for Central Asian Studies in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (2000-2003), then a senior research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany (2006-2009). In 2010-2012, she was a Volkswagen Stiftung grant holder at the Centre for Interdisciplinary studies of Martin Luther University in Halle, Germany.