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Boris Pаtric
Madeleine Reeves. Border Work: Spatial Lives of the State in Rural Central Asia

Madeleine Reeves. Border Work: Spatial Lives of the State in Rural Central Asia.
Ithaca, NY: Cornell University

Press, 2014.

Boris Pétric. Address for correspondence: École des Hautes Études en Sciences

Sociales, Centre Norbert Elias, 2 rue de la Vieille Charité, 13002 Marseille, France.


The British social anthropologist Madeleine Reeves offers a fascinating book, both in terms of the data it contains and the issues it raises. Engaging a qualitative approach to studying the border in post-Soviet Central Asia, she examines more broadly the metamorphosis of the contemporary state. She first reminds us that administrative boundaries between Soviet republics are part of a political context developed during a period where the “scientific state” distinguished spaces and groups and transformed identities by using social sciences and statistics. This complex inheritance is now managed in a new context, where the nation-state appears as the global political norm and tries to match ethnic/national boundaries with political boundaries. Indeed, these new borders hold a completely different meaning after post-Soviet independence. Reeves, fluent in Russian and Kyrgyz, conducted long periods of fieldwork in Central Asia. She offers a sophisticated analysis of the perceptions and practices of the population living in the Fergana Valley, where borders of three independent states (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan) separate three different societies. She does not consider the border as a natural or static reality, nor as spatially deterministic. Through her high quality description, the border becomes a multiple and plastic reality, and the “border area” appears as major political site.

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