This project examines in a theory-oriented and comparative way processes of ethnic differentiation and inter-ethnic relations in four states where Uzbeks form a significant minority. Three of them, namely Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, have in recent years experienced conflicts of varying scale, in which Uzbeks have been more or less strongly involved. Kazakstan, which so far has been spared from serious inter-ethnic tensions, will serve as a kind of control case. The aim is to compare patterns of conflict and political mobilization in the name of ethnicity. It will be asked when, why and how ethnic differentiation becomes relevant for social and political action, how this is shaped by national politics and the distribution of resources, and how this influences individual behavior and the composition of social networks on the ground.

By comparing Uzbek communities in different locations where violence has erupted or not, it will be possible to look at the impact of state politics and local identity concepts on inter-ethnic relations and on their mobilization in situation of conflict. The investigation will be guided by anthropological approaches selecting one specific field site in each of the four countries to be included and will be conducted on three principal levels:

– Conceptualization of Uzbek identity in relation to the local ethnic configuration

– Patterns of social interaction and distribution of economic as well as political resources

– Strategies of mobilization by political leaders and ethnic entrepreneurs

The major objective of this project is to provide new insights into processes of ethnic relations and conflict management in contemporary Central Asia and northern Afghanistan. This is of tremendous importance for a better understanding of the region in a period of rapid change after the collapse of the socialist regimes, often characterized by violent conflict.

The project is financially supported by the SNSF (Swiss National Science Foundation) and the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) and the beginning is scheduled for summer 2013. It is product of a cooperation between the universities of Zurich (Prof. Dr. Peter Finke), Geneva (Prof. Dr. Alessandro Monsutti), Halle-Wittenberg (Prof. Dr. Jürgen Paul) and the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (Prof. Dr. Günter Schlee). Research will be conducted by Dr. Wolfgang Holzwarth (project coordinator), M.A. Baktygul Karimova, M.A. Omar Sharif.