International Society and Central Asia

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Central Asia appeared on the world stage as a sub-system in the wider Eurasian continent. Because of its vast and rich natural resources and its strategic location with respect to Afghanistan, within the discipline of International Relations Central Asia has been widely considered as a mere ‘pawn’ in the competition among the Great Powers for geo-political and geo-economic advantage in the area. This framework of analysis, strongly focusing on systemic factors, has often downplayed and silenced the dense intra-regional political dynamics at play. In the few instances where these dynamics have been studied, the international relations of Central Asian states have always been read through a strongly realist framework of analysis. Since these states are more interested in dealing with foreign powers than with themselves, since there are not Central Asian regional organisations and since several problems, mostly related to water- management and border issues, hinder cooperation between them, the region has often been described as a paramount example of realism at play. This thesis, challenging the existent literature on the region, shows that an English School (ES) reading of Central Asian regional politics reveals much more than it is usually believed to be present there, and that despite the strong confrontational character of the region, these states have managed to coexist relatively peacefully. How? Drawing on a variety of primary sources, interviews with diplomats and practitioners conducted in the region and on the analysis of official documents and statements, this research finds that Central Asia represents an in fieri, but nonetheless existent, regional international society, featuring also local, peculiar interpretations of global norms and institutions, where cooperation and confrontation have always been intertwined and seldom mutually exclusive. Being the first work in the literature to use ES theory to study Central Asian international politics, this thesis advances two agendas: it suggests new, more nuanced and ‘autoptic’ readings of the Central Asian region while encouraging the ES to expand into the ‘heartland’, therefore bringing forward the recently established
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorNatasha Kuhrt (Supervisor) & Guglielmo Verdirame (Supervisor)

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