chapter  3
14 Pages

Intimate militarism

Domesticating the border in rural Central Asia
WithMadeleine Reeves

This chapter explores the concept of ‘intimate militarism’ through an ethnographic case study from the southern edge of the Ferghana valley, a densely-populated intra-montane basin where three of the Central Asian states, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, meet. The delimitation and regulation of international borders remain socially and politically contentious in this region marked by histories of kinship, trade and ritual visiting. However, rather than focusing on these borders exceptionality, this chapter considers how it is that new international borders become banal: part of the taken-for-granted texture of daily life. In part this is a story of borders’ routinisation: the embodied practices and institutional forms through which certain routes through a landscape become marked as ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’, ‘normal’ and ‘transgressive’, such that a border comes to reproduce and take on social salience, even in the absence of regular border checks. It is also an exploration of the way that borders, and more specifically, the military presence with which they are associated, come to be normalised and even desired as an index of social and geographical legibility to the state. I argue in this chapter that taking seriously borderland residents’ concern to be recognised as legible to the state—to count and be counted, rather than to evade the state—is critical for understanding the contemporary escalation of force that we see in the Ferghana valley. For village residents and rural officials alike, I suggest, being identified as a ‘border village’ has become a way of being seen by the state and thus of accessing material and symbolic benefits in a context otherwise marked by consistent state withdrawal.