“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
The Taste of Place and the Nature of Trust: Zhailau Foods in Post-Socialist Kazakhstan In contemporary Kazakhstan, as among other industrial and post-industrial societies, ideas surrounding rurally-sourced foods extend beyond questions of urban-industrial hygiene or quality control, and point more powerfully to the perceived moralities instilled in foods sourced from different places. These places may […]
The Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics is pleased to invite you to the public lecture by Dr. Karen Evans-Romaine (University of Wisconsin-Madison).
Title: “On Wings of Song: Romantic Image-Makers in Russian Modernism”
Time and Date: Friday, February 24, 4-5 pm.
Dr. Evans-Romaine is a specialist on Boris Pasternak, intertextuality in Russian Modernism, interrelationship of music and literature, German-Russian literary relations, European Modernism and Romanticism; and foreign language pedagogy. She is the author of Boris Pasternak and the Tradition of German Romanticism. Munich: Verlag Otto Sagner [Slavistische Beiträge, Vol. 344], 1997, and numerous articles and book chapters on Russian literature and foreign language pedagogy.
The Department of Languages, Linguistics and Lieratures (aka WLL) invites you to a lecture by Professor Andrew Reynolds (Department of German, Nordic and Slavic, UW-Madison) titled:
“Preserving whose speech?: Mandelstam in translation and the quest for the authentic in post-1945 British, Irish, and American poetry”
When: Wednesday, October 19, 4:00-5:00 pm
Where: Block 8, Room 8.140
After providing a brief account of the translation of Mandelstam and other Russian and East European poets into English and also of some of the main trends in Western scholarship on these poets, I shall explore some of the reasons why English-language poetry in this period turned to the East. Some more specific questions of translation strategies and literary interpretation will also be discussed with particular reference to Mandelstam’s 1931 masterpiece “Sokhrani moiu rech’ navsegda za privkus neschast’ia i dyma” (“Preserve my speech forever for its aftertaste of misfortune and smoke”).
Andrew Reynolds is Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at UW-Madison, and the author of Death and the Poets: Osip Mandelstam, Alexander Pushkin and the Poetics of Influence (forthcoming from University of Wisconsin Press).
The Department of Sociology and Anthropology invites you to a lecture by Professor Ted Gerber (University of Wisconsin-Madison) titled:
‘Housing and Inequality in Four Soviet Countries’
When: 6.00pm-7.00pm, Tuesday, 18 October.
Where: Block 8 (SHSS), Floor 3, Room 8.305.
After 25 years of post-Soviet transition, how does housing relate to other markers of socioeconomic status in former Soviet countries? Housing was distributed according to non-market principles in the USSR. After the Soviet collapse, former Soviet states privatized housing stock, yet credit constraints and chronic shortages of housing stock impeded the development of housing markets. Data from a 2015 survey conducted in Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Ukraine reveal the role of housing in the emergent stratification systems in these countries.
Dr. Gerber is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focuses on issues of social inequality, economic change, demography, and migration in post-Soviet countries.
We would like to invite all students, faculty and colleagues to a paper in the SHSS seminar series.
Irna Hofman (Leiden University, Institute of Asian Studies) will be presenting on Politics or profits along the “Silk Road”. What drives and thrives Chinese farms in Tajikistan?
The Seminar will be at 4pm on Monday 11th April 2016 in Room 8.307 at Nazarbayev University.
New geopolitical dynamics and the search for natural resources such as land accompany the rise of the BRICS countries in the global arena. In this paper I discuss the case of Chinese agricultural land investments in the Central Asian state of Tajikistan. Stemming from a Soviet past, Tajikistan seems to be on the way to becoming one of China’s satellite states. Over the last five years Chinese engagement in Tajikistan has become increasingly diversified. It now includes land and agriculture, which points to the multifaceted drivers behind China’s presence in the neighbouring Tajik republic. I thus use Tajikistan to explore the nature and drivers of Chinese land acquisitions in Central Asia, a region that has been regaining global attention since the past few years. This raises more widely applicable insights into the various, and I would argue, often competing factors driving China’s foreign land rush.
Irna Hofman is a Ph.D. researcher at Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS) and affiliated to the ISS in the Hague through her supervisor Oane Visser. She holds a Master of Science degree in Environmental Sciences with a minor in Rural Development Sociology. Her current work and interests are focused on agrarian and social change, rural sociology and transition economies. She has conducted research in rural Uzbekistan and currently works on her Ph.D. research on post-Soviet agrarian change in Tajikistan. Chinese agricultural land investments and Chinese presence in Tajikistan and broader Central Asia are also part of her study, for which she recently organised a small conference on ‘Encounters after the Soviet collapse: Chinese presence in the former Soviet Union border zone’.