Beyond spheres of influence: the myth of the state and Russia’s seductive power in Kyrgyzstan

Ortmann, Stefanie (2018) Beyond spheres of influence: the myth of the state and Russia’s seductive power in Kyrgyzstan. Geopolitics, 23 (2). pp. 404-435. ISSN 1465-0045

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This article questions the analytical value of “spheres of influence” for understanding power and the state in the post-Soviet region and beyond, based on a critical deconstruction of the ontological and epistemological assumptions inherent in the concept. It proposes an alternative reading of power and the state, drawing on the concept of “seductive power” at a distance and Timothy Mitchell’s “state effect.” Rather than the concept of a sphere of influence, a highly politicized concept that conveys an ontology that flattens and divides space, essentializes the state, and relies on an intentionalist account of power, we need an analytical framework that can help us make sense of the multiple, varied spatialities and historical legacies that produce the state and power. I demonstrate this through an extended discussion of Russian power in Kyrgyzstan, a country often described as a Russian client state. Mobilizing recent re-conceptualizations of state and power in anthropology and political geography, I present an analysis of Russia’s seductive power in Kyrgyzstan and the way it contributes to producing Kyrgyz state-ness. I also show how Russia’s Great Power myth is itself evolving and conclude that the differentiated, relational production of space and power in either Kyrgyz or Russian myths of the state is not captured by a the concept of a return to spheres of influence.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Depositing User: Sharon Krummel
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2018 13:59
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 14:05

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