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CyberChaikhana

Cyber Chaikhana Update: Call for contributions!
Written by , Monday, 14 Apr, 2008 – 0:04 | No Comment

As most of you will know, we at neweurasia are working on a book drawing its contents from the Stanosphere. Chris Schwartz, the editor of the book, has previously written on the homebase. He introduced the book project here, and gave an update on our progress here. The book’s dedicated blog is available here.

We have sourced a lot of material from within neweurasia (mostly English material) and are now looking for contributions from all other blogs that discuss the region – written in all languages. We are looking for posts that are fitting the preliminary chapter list Chris and I agreed on in Philadelphia two weeks ago. Please send your contributions to us at ben(at)neweurasia(dot)net or te(dot)schwartz(at)gmail(dot)com and read further details on the submission process here.

Please have a look below the jump to see the chapters in their current form. This book needs your input to be representative of the Central Asian blogging community! Read the full story »

Extension for readers’ picks from throughout the blogosphere
Written by , Saturday, 12 Apr, 2008 – 19:16 | No Comment

I’m extending the time limit for submitting your picks for posts from throughout the Stanosphere to the end of the month.

This is your opportunity to directly contribute to the book! You may leave me URL links in the comments section to this post or e-mail them to me: te {dot} schwartz {at} gmail {dot} com.

Reflection: The Ironies of Making a Book About Weblogging
Written by , Thursday, 10 Apr, 2008 – 19:14 | One Comment

What has weblogging wrought?

The World Wide Web is a fusion of text and graphic, and few things best exemplify this than the New Media format of the weblog. All the great innovations in communication technology and the publishing industry, from streaming video to creative commons to open-source content management systems, have been experimented with and implemented by webloggers. Only a lunatic could believe that a book, a mere physical object, could actually capture within ink and paper this electronic, evolutionary, and elusive medium.

Thankfully, weblogging tends to attract lunatics. What other people call crazy, the blogosphere calls cool. ;p

Weblogging also tends to generate reams of self-reflection. So, true to the format I intend to capture between two covers, here’s a meditation on the ironies of making a book about weblogging. Read the full story »

Call for readers’ picks from throughout the blogosphere
Written by , Friday, 4 Apr, 2008 – 19:50 | One Comment

The first phase of the book is complete. We are now beginning the second phase of post selections.

The blogosphere is vast. Even our small corner of it is humongous, and it grows by the day in readership, writers, and most of all, posts. My task as editor of CyberChaikhana is to create a book representative of the entire Central Asian weblogging community, not just the neweurasia network alone. However, there is too much material out there on the world wide web for my one mind to survey. I need your help.

In my last post, I announced the chapter framework for the book. What I need from you is to go out into the rest of the blogosphere, beyond neweurasia, Thinking-East, and the Registan, and send me posts in English, Russian, and local languages that fit into the framework.

Play to your strengths. For example, if you know Kyrgyzstani issues best, send me posts appropriate for our Kyrgyzstan-specific chapter, or Kyrgyzstan-related posts appropriate for one or more of our themed chapters. If you are better at theoretical or cross-regional issues, then send me posts appropriate for our themed chapters. And so on.

Please do not send me posts that do not fit into our chapter framework.

Some more advisories:

I will consider any and all sources, including both public and private weblogs on platforms such as Blogspot, Livejournal, MySpace, and so on. You may also send me your own material. If you send me copyrighted material, please alert me.

I cannot accept any submissions that do not include full author information and a URL link. Additionally, all material must have been published on the web. (If it is no longer available: if I can find a copy of it on the Internet Archive, or if you provide me an appropriately dated *.doc or *.rtf file, either will suffice.) I will consider material as old as January 1st, 2004.

Regarding the Russian and local language content in the neweurasia archives, I will now be directly contacting our network’s bridge-bloggers.

The time limit is two weeks, beginning today, April the 4th, and ending Sunday, April the 13th.

This is your opportunity to directly contribute to the book! You may leave me URL links in the comments section to this post or e-mail them to me: te {dot} schwartz {at} gmail {dot} com.

Results from Philadelphia meetings
Written by , Sunday, 30 Mar, 2008 – 23:48 | 5 Comments

Your devoted “cyber-akhbari” is happy to report that my meetings with Ben in Philadephia were very productive.  We have made a lot of progress.  Here are the results:

The book will be divided into two parts: country-specific and cross-regional.  Part 1 will be composed of five chapters, one for each country.  Part 2 will be composed of five to seven chapters, each focusing upon a theme or topic that applies to all of Central Asia.

The big challenge of the country-specific chapters is choosing a topic or theme that best encapsulates the country.  Because this necessitates leaving out excellent material that doesn’t fit into our framework, we will probably have in Part 2 a “Slices of Life”-type chapter to include all the very cool, beautiful, important, but otherwise miscellaneous articles.

Our main ideas for chapters in Part 1:

  • Tajikistan: “Sorrows and Silver Linings” (the hardships of daily life, but also the things in which people find meaning); 
  • Turkmenistan: “Fathering History” (continuity and discontinuity after Turkmenbashi);
  • Kyrgyzstan: “Revolutions and Retrospections” (hopes and bitter reality before, during, and after the “Tulip Revolution”);
  • Kazakhstan: “The Transformation of Space” (the massive change in Kazakh society as reflected in urban space);
  • Uzbekistan: “The Engima” (perceptions and undercurrents of the situation in Uzbekistan).

Of course, these are subject to change.  Also, they are not meant to be exhaustive; many other interesting facets of the countries will appear in the cross-regional chapters.  

Our main ideas for chapters in Part 2:

  • “The Quest for Identity” (including such varied topics as Borat, the gold teeth ban in Tajikistan, and personality cults, among others);
  • “Ivory Towers on Sand” or “Have spellcheck, will work for food” (education);
  • “Veils and Motherlands” (women in post-Soviet Central Asia);
  • “Saints and Sinners” (religious revival, customs, the Ruhnama, and other religion-related topics);
  • “Adam Smith Goes to Tashkent” (the scarcity of staples… and oil);
  • “In the Shadows” (minorities of all types, including ethnic-national, sexual, economic, and political);
  • “Looking back, looking ahead” (reflections on the end of the Soviet Union, and expectations for the future of Central Asia – most likely to be the final chapter of the book.) 

To reiterate, this is all subject to change.

Regarding articles that are currently in Russian: I will soon be putting out a call to the you the readers, and directly contacting our bridge-bloggers, as well as bloggers beyond neweurasia.   Specifically I will be seeking posts that fit into our framework.  But don’t jump yet, wait for my announcement.  

Cyber Chaikhana: What’s new?
Written by , Tuesday, 25 Mar, 2008 – 23:39 | No Comment

In 2008, neweurasia and the wider Stanosphere will leave the cyberspace and together create a book: Cyber Chaikhana. Check here for the introduction post on the homebase and here for the project’s dedicated blog. Below an update on our progress and some clarifications.

Round 1 pre-selections for articles written in English have been completed. They may be reviewed here. The strongest chapter ideas so far appear to be: leadership, information, democracy and civil society, labor, and some human-interest.

There has been some confusion regarding: (A) the status of articles written in Russian, (B) the English and Russian versions of the book, and (C) the limit on the amount of material that can be used from a single author.

(A) Both the English and Russian versions of the book will be composed of exactly the same articles. Therefore, it will be exactly the same book in both languages.

(B) Ben and I have already discussed the problem of the content that has not yet been translated into English. Round 2 will either be a list concentrating on the Russian articles, or will include them as an update.

(C) The 3-article limit is more a guideline than a firm rule. The final amount of articles used from one author or another ultimately depends upon the chapters. If necessary, I will be flexible. My goal is to be as inclusive and representative as possible.

Ben and I are meeting in Philadelphia this week to discuss all these issues in further detail, as well as the chapters. Let’s all wish him a safe and comfortable flight!

Finally, for most of you I remain a stranger. So that you might get to know me better, I have established a personal website, which may be viewed here.

Cyber Chaikhana: What’s new?
Written by , Tuesday, 25 Mar, 2008 – 22:43 | No Comment

Cross-posted on neweurasia.net

In 2008, neweurasia and the wider Stanosphere will leave the cyberspace and together create a book: Cyber Chaikhana. Check here for the introduction post on the homebase and here for the project’s dedicated blog. Below an update on our progress and some clarifications.

Round 1 pre-selections for articles written in English have been completed. They may be reviewed here. The strongest chapter ideas so far appear to be: leadership, information, democracy and civil society, labor, and some human-interest.

There has been some confusion regarding: (A) the status of articles written in Russian, (B) the English and Russian versions of the book, and (C) the limit on the amount of material that can be used from a single author.

(A) Both the English and Russian versions of the book will be composed of exactly the same articles. Therefore, it will be exactly the same book in both languages.

(B) Ben and I have already discussed the problem of the content that has not yet been translated into English. Round 2 will either be a list concentrating on the Russian articles, or will include them as an update.

(C) The 3-article limit is more a guideline than a firm rule. The final amount of articles used from one author or another ultimately depends upon the chapters. If necessary, I will be flexible. My goal is to be as inclusive and representative as possible.

Ben and I are meeting in Philadelphia this week to discuss all these issues in further detail, as well as the chapters. Let’s all wish him a safe and comfortable flight!

Finally, for most of you I remain a stranger. So that you might get to know me better, I have established a personal website, which may be viewed here.

Pre-selected chapters round 1 for Turkmenistan
Written by , Monday, 17 Mar, 2008 – 23:28 | One Comment

Finally, I come to Turkmenistan, which Western media describes as the most enigmatic of the Central Asian states but which I like to think of as a actually pretty simple to understand.  Here is a country effectively without a past.

Don’t get me wrong, written history for the territory exists, and it covers a period as far back as the Achaemenid dynasty in ancient Persia.  And it’s not as if modern Turkmen don’t have anything to look back upon fondly.  For example, in the form of the Seljuks, they ruled a substantial chunk of Islamic territory.  However, after the Mongolian conquests little is documented for the next 700 years.  Indications are that the Turkmen subsisted under various empires while fighting constant, fruitless intertribal wars amongst themselves.

Contrary to what we might expect, Turkmenistan’s current condition is due less to Soviet and post-Soviet totalitarianism, and more to factors that existed long before the sickle and hammer banner rose over Ashgabad.  These factors were essentially geographical-ecological and societal, i.e., nomadic and semi-nomadic subsistence in one of the world’s harshest deserts.  Sands and scimitars don’t make for good historiography.  There is too much upheaval, too much wandering, too little ink and paper, and most of all, too little time and even less literacy.  Thus, of necessity Turkmen history must be engineered.

However, where historians rely upon the memories preserved in oral traditions, politicians rely upon their own personal imagination, the horizon of which is delimited only by the extent of their ambition.  From this perspective, we can understand Niyazov’s Ruhnama as not only a lonely man’s cynical and paranoid drive for control, but as an expression of his people’s legitimate and sincere need for identity.  I’m not arguing that the Ruhnama is a good thing (as an historian, from what I know of it, I think the book butchers the Turkmen past); I’m arguing that the book is symptomatic of the post-Soviet Turkmen’s deeper problem: desert nomads thrust into modernity with little of the infrastructural and psychological tools necessary to make the transition, theirs is the story of a people’s quiet desperation in the face of immense historical processes.  The Turkmen, even if they have left the desert, remain nomads.

How does this apply to the broader subject of Central Asia?  In my entry on Tajikistan, I commented,

Seems to me that Western reporters love bipolarity. In the days of the Tulip Revolution, they attempted to present the region as existing on a spectrum, with Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan at either end, Kazakhstan the ‘success story,’ Uzbekistan the ‘puzzle,’ and Tajikistan the ‘fuck-up.’ In reality, all five countries are like a soup, stewed from a mixture of authoritarian and democratic, command-economy and capitalistic, and ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ aspects. It is true that each has more of one and less of the other, but the situation, as Tajikistan demonstrates, is anything but cut and dry.

I can now add one more ingredient to the stew, one of critical importance: the question of identity.  Seems to me each of the five Central Asian states is attempting to forge an answer for themselves, each deriving it from a different source. Turkmenistan has braved the most unique and, dare I say, authentic, source: history.  This is both ironic and fitting: ironic because one would expect history, especially the anarchic history of the Turkmen’s nomadic past, to resist and undermine state control, and fitting because knowledge of the past is control.  It is control over not only the present, but the future–and if there is one thing that most characterizes Turkmenistan, it is the country’s relationship to the principle of control.

Now, onto the main event. To recapitulate, chapter ideas that are rapidly emerging as top contenders for the book are:

  • “Leadership in Central Asia” (the political apparatuses of the states with emphasis on the executive branches);
  • “Information in Central Asia” (including journalism and the phenomenon of the World Wide Web);
  • “Society in Central Asia” (which could go in any number of directions and will probably be subdivided: civil society, democracy, and NGOs; social issues, e.g., alcohol, gender, women’s rights; and human-interest items with a focus on everyday community, e.g., mahalla, chaikhana, the expenses of daily living, and fun posts.
  • “Religion and Politics in Central Asia” (obviously this will end up dealing with Hizb ut-Tahrir, IMU, IRP, and so on).
  • I am considering resurrecting the cross-weblog surveys of yesteryear, such as “Central Asia in 2021″ and “Minorities in Central Asia,” e.g., http://turkmenistan.neweurasia.net/2007/08/02/turkmenistan-2021/ and http://turkmenistan.neweurasia.net/2008/02/26/the-russian-language-in-turkmenistan/

Keep these items in mind:

  • The list is arranged non-chronologically by broad topics, and occasionally by chapter ideas or focus points.
  • With an exception here and there, I do not list the posts that I have ear-marked for their photographic content. Photographs for use in the book interior will be chosen near the end of the editorial process.
  • Some of these posts were selected with their comments sections in mind. In the final book, the comments would also be published.
  • Some of these posts may work in a broad topic or chapter idea other than that which it is currently categorized under.
  • Ben and I have agreed that in the final book, posts by a single author will be no more than three in number.

As always, your thoughts and suggestions are needed. You may contact me via e-mail: te dot schwartz at gmail dot com Read the full story »

Pre-selected chapters round 1 for Uzbekistan
Written by , Monday, 10 Mar, 2008 – 22:37 | 2 Comments

I, your devoted “cyber-akhbari,” remain hard at work going through the archives for the best material. So far the most challenging subject country has been Uzbekistan, about which the neweurasia community has produced a wealth of incisive coverage. One result is that my methodology has necessarily grown in sophistication. Another result is that I have realized, with horror, how much I may be missing from the untranslated Russian posts. Ben and I are working on a solution to this problem.

You will probably be surprised that I am using a very antiquated device to jot down and collate the selections — a notebook. Hey, even in our wired age, good old fashioned pen, ink, and paper can be mighty useful. (White-out, by the way, is a most fortuitous invention for notebook-users.) The creative process behind this book has a physical underlay: the lists in the previous post and below are refinements of that which I have physically written down and arranged “offline.”

Now, onto the main event. Chapter ideas that are rapidly emerging as top contenders for the book are:

- “Leadership in Central Asia” (the political apparatuses of the states with emphasis on the executive branches);

- “Information in Central Asia” (including journalism and the phenomenon of the World Wide Web);

- “Society in Central Asia” (which could go in any number of directions and will probably be subdivided: civil society, democracy, and NGOs; social issues, e.g., alcohol, gender, women’s rights; and human-interest items with a focus on everyday community, e.g., mahalla, chaikhana, the expenses of daily living, and fun posts, such as the latest one by Asel, “From Santamania to ‘Subbotnik’” http://www.neweurasia.net/2008/03/04/kyrgyzstan-from-santamania-to-subbotnik/).- “Religion and Politics in Central Asia” (obviously this will end up dealing with Hizb ut-Tahrir, IMU, and so on).

I am pushing toward a cross-regional angle for all the selections. Due to the fact that Uzbekistan provides so many “hot button” issues that touch on several of these topics at once, it will be a challenge to keep a balance in coverage of all the Central Asian states (the recent energy crisis in Tajikistan, which precipitated into a regional catastrophe, could be useful in this regard).

Again, keep these items in mind:

  • The list is arranged non-chronologically by broad topics, and occassionally by chapter ideas or focus points.
  • With an exception here and there, I do not list the posts that I have ear-marked for their photographic content. Photographs for use in the book interior will be chosen near the end of the editorial process.
  • Some of these posts were selected with their comments sections in mind. In the final book, the comments would also be published.
  • Some of these posts may work in a broad topic or chapter idea other than that which it is currently categorized under.
  • Ben and I have agreed that in the final book, posts by a single author will be no more than three in number.

In the selections below I include the URLs of some websites beyond neweurasia, notably Registan.net and Thinking-East.net. Nostalgia is not my motivation: there is some very good material in the archives of both websites that merit a consideration for inclusion, even if they are dated. Be assured that the wider Central Asian blogosphere will be thoroughly scanned for contributions in one of our next steps.

Which leads me to the next matter: when it was still operational Thinking-East had made a small name for itself with its coverage of the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan. The Andjijon crisis occurred shortly after that event, and was also covered by the website. While I would prefer to avoid event-specific chapters, even a chapter dealing with as broad a subject as “Democracy in Central Asia” really should deal with these two events. Since Thinking-East was not a proper weblog, I would prefer to cull photographs and coverage from other areas of the Central Asian blogosphere. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Again, a wider look at what’s out there is high on our to-do list. Read the full story »

Pre-selected chapters round 1 for Tajikistan
Written by , Friday, 7 Mar, 2008 – 22:07 | No Comment

Tajikistan has presented me with an interesting conundrum. Whereas Uzbekistan has many hot-button topics that have a cross-regional reach, and Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are, so to speak, all over the map, Tajikistan has many topics which are peculiar to it alone. Thus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan threaten to take too prominent a position in the book at the expense of Tajikistan. This ironically and sadly parallels the situation in the Western media’s coverage of the region — a parallel I will do my best not to let manifest.

The conundrum is further complicated by the fact that it is difficult to disentangle many of Tajikistan’s topics into distinct self-contained subjects. Considering the post-civil war context of the country, this doesn’t really come as a surprise. Immigration, demographics, macroeconomics, national security, and social issues (e.g., the imbalanced ratio of men to women) all seem much more tightly bundled together for Tajikistan than for many other countries in Central Asia. A good example of what I mean is this post.

However, for these very same reasons Tajikistan also has, in my opinion, some unique weblog posts. I am thinking specifically of Vadim’s on-going lamentations, which have a columnist feel to them; also, the coverage of Chinese immigrant labor, the fear and frustration of which ring familiar to my American ears.

More importantly, however, Tajikistan’s situation, especially its energy and labor woes, and its transitional political system, is firmly Central Asian in character. By this I mean the country is a tapestry or “soup” of different elements, rather than some kind of bipolar spectrum. Seems to me that Western reporters love bipolarity. In the days of the Tulip Revolution, they attempted to present the region as existing on a spectrum, with Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan at either end, Kazakhstan the “success story,” Uzbekistan the “puzzle,” and Tajikistan the “fuck-up.” In reality, all five countries are like a soup, stewed from a mixture of authoritarian and democratic, command-economy and capitalistic, and “modern” and “traditional” aspects. It is true that each has more of one and less of the other, but the situation, as Tajikistan demonstrates, is anything but cut and dry.

Now, onto the main event. To recapitulate, chapter ideas that are rapidly emerging as top contenders for the book are:

  • “Leadership in Central Asia” (the political apparatuses of the states with emphasis on the executive branches);
  • “Information in Central Asia” (including journalism and the phenomenon of the World Wide Web);
  • “Society in Central Asia” (which could go in any number of directions and will probably be subdivided: civil society, democracy, and NGOs; social issues, e.g., alcohol, gender, women’s rights; and human-interest items with a focus on everyday community, e.g., mahalla, chaikhana, the expenses of daily living, and fun posts.
  • “Religion and Politics in Central Asia” (obviously this will end up dealing with Hizb ut-Tahrir, IMU, IRP, and so on).
  • I am considering resurrecting the cross-weblog surveys of yesteryear, such as “Central Asia in 2021″ and “Minorities in Central Asia.”

Keep these items in mind:

  • The list is arranged non-chronologically by broad topics, and occasionally by chapter ideas or focus points.
  • With an exception here and there, I do not list the posts that I have ear-marked for their photographic content. Photographs for use in the book interior will be chosen near the end of the editorial process.
  • Some of these posts were selected with their comments sections in mind. In the final book, the comments would also be published.
  • Some of these posts may work in a broad topic or chapter idea other than that which it is currently categorized under.
  • Ben and I have agreed that in the final book, posts by a single author will be no more than three in number.

As always, your thoughts and suggestions are needed. You may contact me via e-mail: te dot schwartz at gmail dot com. Read the full story »