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The Kazakhstan (before: KSSR) Academy of Sciences in Almaty.

You may remember about a paper by our colleague Alima Bissenova and Kulshat Medeuova (ENU) we discussed at the History Reading Circle in September 2016…

Now the paper has been published by Ab Imperio, 4/2016, pp. 207-255 and is available to read online here.

The paper is titled: Давление метрополий и тихий национализм академических практик  (“The pressure of the metropole and the silent nationalism of academic practices”).


The article reviews the recurrent cycles of wholesale modernization of Kazakh culture over the last century to argue the futility of policies based on complete eradication of the previous cultural code. Putting the main focus on the sphere of education, particularly at university level, the authors compare the situation at the turn of the twentieth century, during the Early Soviet period, and after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The ruthless criticism of the traditional cleric culture by Muslim reformers (the Jadids), the subsequent assault on them as not modern and radical enough by Soviet educators, and the dismissive attitude to Soviet cultural and educational standards by government managers in modern Kazakhstan have had profound structural parallels. Their radicalism notwithstanding, these reforms were securing Kazakhstan’s role as a periphery of some external center of “true knowledge”, and thus its essentially colonial status. The logic of modernization understood as embracing some complete cultural sphere from elsewhere made any local knowledge (including national identity) synonymous to backwardness. This started a vicious circle: any successful intellectual had to refute any national cultural legacy, thus making national culture incompatible with modernity by definition. The authors discover the persistence of cultural practices behind the fiery rhetoric of all cultural revolutions in modern Kazakh history, which they call the “quiet nationalism of academic practices”. They use the case of Soviet academy to demonstrate the effect of hybridization of the nationalist discourse within the Soviet institutions, and thus the reality of accommodating tradition within modern culture. They conclude that local culture, despite being pushed to the “backyard of modernity,” has shown a remarkable capacity to reproduce itself and influence the parameters and the direction of the modernization project at all periods. Therefore, rather than fighting the “quiet nationalism of academic practices”, a truly postcolonial modernizing project should explicitly embrace them.