About Deniz Kandiyoti

Deniz Kandiyoti is Emeritus Professor of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She is the author of Concubines, Sisters and Citizens: Identities and Social Transformation (1997) the editor of Fragments of Culture: The Everyday of Modern Turkey (2002), Gendering the Middle East (1996), Women, Islam and the State (1991) Deniz is the editor of the journal Central Asian Survey.

Articles by Deniz Kandiyoti

This week's editor

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Adam Ramsay is co-editor of OurKingdom.

Contesting patriarchy-as-governance: lessons from youth-led activism

Youth-led mobilisation has mocked and exposed patriarchal power by unmasking its politics of social control. Are we on the threshold of a new politics of gender creating cross-gender alliances around struggles against autocracy?

Your fatwa does not apply here

Democratic and secular voices in Muslim majority countries have too often been sacrificed by the left in the west in the name of anti-imperialism and identity politics. The authoritarian movements of the far right, which democrats of the South oppose, must be recognized for what they are, Karima Bennoune tells Deniz Kandiyoti.

الخوف والغضب: المرأة وعنف ما بعد الثورة

إن وضع حلقات العنف ضد المرأة الذي تلا الربيع العربي لإظهارها كمثال روتيني للمجتمع الذكوري وحلفائه ممن لا يثقون بالمرأة في مجتمعات بعينها قد يقي أصحاب السلطة من مزيد من التقصي والتدقيق بشكل غير متعمد. لم يعد الرهان على المرأة وجسمها بل على الجسم السياسي بحد ذاته. هكذا تجادل دينيز كانديوتي

Fear and fury: women and post-revolutionary violence

Putting episodes of post-Arab spring violence against women down to a routine manifestation of patriarchy and its allied misogyny in the societies concerned may unwittingly shield power-holders from more searching scrutiny. What is at stake is no longer just women and their bodies but the body politic itself, argues Deniz Kandiyoti.

Disquiet and despair: the gender sub-texts of the 'Arab spring'

The extreme precariousness of women’s rights in post- Arab spring successor regimes can neither be fully accounted for with reference to the rise of politically empowered Islamist parties nor attributed to some unqualified notion of misogyny, but is determined by a complex combination of internal and external influences.

Conflict and Custom in the New World Order : a conversation with Gita Sahgal

"There is a struggle to be had. It is time to challenge the hegemony of the formal human rights movement and its uncritical embrace of identity politics". Gita Sahgal in conversation with Deniz Kandiyoti. Part two.

'Soft law' and hard choices: a conversation with Gita Sahgal

A conversation exploring the challenges posed by the international conjuncture following the “war on terror” for gender justice and women’s rights. Part one

Promise and peril: women and the ‘Arab spring’

Women were visible and effective in the popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. Will this moment of opening yield empowering outcomes? Deniz Kandiyoti argues that the greatest peril lies in truncated or aborted transitions where women’s rights are offered up as an item of populist compromise

A tangled web: the politics of gender in Turkey

Although the women’s movement in Turkey has scored major victories in the realm of legal reforms, there is a widening gap between rights in law and realities on the ground. How secure are these gains?

Not the Church, Not the State? Gender equality in the crossfire

The challenge to platforms for gender equality comes not just from actors with fundamentalist agendas, but from a conjuncture where women’s rights have been opportunistically instrumentalized to serve geopolitical goals, and neo-liberal policies have severed social justice from gender equality concerns

Negotiating with the Taliban: the view from below

While the only official woman delegate in the Afghan mission to the London Conference pleaded that women’s rights must not be sacrificed on the altar of security concerns, women’s rights activists who had also travelled to London brought their own message

Gender in Afghanistan: pragmatic activism

War and mismanagement have produced a breakdown of trust, decency and reciprocity in Afghan society. Gender activism needs to be understood in that context, and not be tempted by crude cultural determinism.

Andijan: prelude to a massacre

In 2002, the bazaar in Andijan, Uzbekistan, witnessed an unusual scene. The police approached a trader selling coats and demanded to see his papers. When it became clear that they intended to confiscate his stock, the trader set every single coat alight and watched his capital go up in flames. He chose the path to bankruptcy over the humiliation of extortion.

Also on the Uzbekistan crisis in openDemocracy:

Nathan Hamm, “Andijan and after: what future for Uzbekistan?

Matt Black, “Uzbekistan’s gift to radical Islam

If you can find this material valuable, and if you can afford it, please send openDemocracy a donation to help us continue our work and keep it free

The road from this extraordinary individual act to the events in Andijan on 13 May 2005, after days of protest over the incarceration of twenty-three popular local entrepreneurs, is not so long as it may seem. The trader who committed it may have done something exceptional, but the everyday experience that lay behind it was shared with millions of his fellow-citizens. This experience, which I encountered during fieldwork in the region from the late 1990s, reveals one of the crucial factors behind Andijan: how the finely honed skills of accommodation and survival preserved by the people of Uzbekistan through the difficult post-Soviet years started to break down under extreme economic and political pressures.

The road from burning coats to blood in the Andijan streets is not a story of the lures of Islamic extremism, nor even of growing absolute poverty: it is, rather, one of a fundamental breach of the social contract between state and citizen in Uzbekistan. The key element is a process of botched market reforms that bred mistrust and cynicism in an otherwise risk-averse population who have increasingly found all their avenues to livelihoods and dignity blocked – with no recourse left except desperate protest.

Between state and market

After independence in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the government of Uzbekistan – dominated by its Soviet-era leader Islam Karimov – faced a serious dilemma: how to retain control of hard currency earnings from the leading export crop (cotton) when the international donor community [especially the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank] were pressing it to liberalise markets and privatise the economy?

The government in Tashkent was averse to a “shock therapy” approach to privatisation, especially of land. There were good reasons for this: land privatisation threatened the incomes of a rent-seeking state elite, and risked provoking popular discontent if the large collectivised farm sector started to shed jobs rapidly in a society with a collapsing social safety-net and no other means of employment.

The government seemed to be proved right: Uzbekistan was able to avert the precipitous decline in GDP and living standards of neighbouring central Asian states in the early 1990s, a fact documented in the United Nations Human Development Reports. But this short-term stability, amid partial, halting reforms that consolidated the economic and political privileges of a narrow social elite, had perverse long-term effects.

The important cotton production sector continued to rely on a command economy system requiring producers to fulfil delivery quotas, where they found themselves squeezed between high prices for inputs and sales to state buyers at well below world prices. Members of restructured former collective agricultural enterprises came increasingly to rely on their smallholdings (an entitlement inherited from the Soviet period) and on informal trade in local or regional bazaars. In rural Andijan’s increasingly tight economic environment, being able to sell at Karasu (Korasuv) bazaar and cross the border to Osh in Kyrgyzstan to trade more profitably became important “safety-valves”.

Although land was not privatised, legislation was passed between 1992 and 1998 that gradually expanded private access to land through leaseholds and the possibility of establishing private farms. The shortage of land in the populous Fergana valley, and the presence of different categories of claimants within the same territory, created a “zero-sum” game: land leased to aspiring private farmers on a long-term basis meant reduced allocations to households from collective enterprises. The weakest members of the community stood to lose most. Informal land sales and increasing levels of corruption in the distribution of resources started to generate popular outrage.

In summer 1998, villagers in the Dardak district of Andijan were angry. A group of men had been detained, amid rumours of jail sentences, after protesting the temporary confiscation of their household plots. They had worked in the cotton fields all year without receiving any cash payments (except for harvesting wages) and were now threatened with losing their main source of livelihood – growing rice on their smallholdings for self-subsistence and for sale. Dardak villagers were staring a winter of penury and hardship in the face.

The sense of injustice was unambiguous. In a neighbouring village, Mahbuba, the head of a cotton production unit, was bitter: “I broke my back on these cotton fields. And now they think they can fob me off with a tiny parcel of bad land to grow a few carrots and sunflowers. The farm manager sells all the good, irrigated land to the rich. Some of them even come from outside. Are we to starve?”

Rural producers felt they had a “deal” with the authorities that was now being reneged upon. Even farm managers, occupying the lower rungs of a pyramid of extortion leading all the way to Tashkent, felt like victims. The retreat of the state from the provision of employment and social welfare had left citizens to their own devices; they relied on social networks, self-help groups and, above all, informal economic activities.

A tightening noose

As if this were not enough, even the marginal spaces where sustainable livelihood in the Andijan region was still possible were being assailed. It would be a misnomer to describe the bazaar in Uzbekistan as “informal” since it is subject to strict regulations, both official and unofficial. Traders must formally register, but often have to pay multiple bribes: to the transport police, to bazaar officials and to border guards when they sought to enter Kyrgyzstan.

In the early 2000s traders were managing to survive these pressures, even as they ate into their profits. But on 11 July 2002 bazaar traders were badly hit when the government imposed a punitive tax on imports and strict regulations on trade (such as having to show documents of provenance, having a cash register and a shop). The legislation effectively closed down the bazaars, forcing the government to supersede it in another decree on 28 July that lowered the tax rate. Meanwhile, border closures on grounds of security threats also impeded the movement of people and goods, aggravating the situation.

The official decrees were partly a response to the proliferation of unregistered economic activities, which eroded the tax base and the government’s ability to finance public service. Many workers in the informal economy, who had lost their once-safe public sector jobs, now saw a predatory state eyeing their last remaining enclaves of survival.

The July 2002 decisions were also a reaction to demands from international financial institutions. The IMF had been urging the government to achieve the convertibility of the Uzbek sum by eliminating differences between official and black-market foreign exchange rates. The government pushed ahead with convertibility at an artificially high rate by effectively closing its borders to private trade and introducing high tariffs for goods to restrict demand for foreign currency.

A further significant development followed. As the government grew increasingly suspicious of the activities of donor-assisted non-governmental organisations (NGOs), their modest infusions of cash into the economy began to be choked. Stringent political and fiscal controls, ostensibly to combat money-laundering by local NGOs, made the work of foreign donors increasingly difficult. The fledgling Uzbek NGO sector was decimated.

In April 2004, foreign NGOs were required to re-register with the ministry of justice; some (most notably the Open Society Institute) were denied the right to operate in Uzbekistan. These measures exacerbated the climate of fear among the urban intelligentsia and professional classes.

The government strategy was essentially a rearguard action aimed at securing a grip over the economy and civil society. It soon backfired. As the economy deteriorated, the pot from which “sweeteners” could be offered to local elites and the wider population shrunk. The only option the state could see was even cruder administrative measures and outright repression – which continued with implacable logic and tragic consequences.

The Islamist conundrum

What of Islam? Central Asia has indeed been targeted by transnational Islamist movements and the Fergana valley has itself long been a bastion of Islamist revival and militancy. There were episodes of Islamic dissent in Fergana, most notably in Namangan, during the early years of independence.

Several factors increased the appeal of Islamist platforms: the post-Soviet scramble for resources; the progressive loss of legitimacy of the regime; indiscriminate repression acting to stimulate recruitment into oppositional movements; and the fact that Islam provides a locally familiar idiom for the articulation of notions of morality, social justice and community. This is, indeed, fertile ground for political players with an Islamist agenda.

It does not follow, however, that the disturbances in Andijan may simply be swept under the carpet with reference to the nefarious activities of Islamist terrorist groups or “armed felons”. At the heart of the Andijan events lies the need for a new social contract that addresses the crisis of provision, legitimacy and security that has plagued post-Soviet Uzbekistan. It remains to be seen whether any democratic forces will emerge to give voice to the longings and aspirations of the people of Uzbekistan or whether the country will remain in the grip of rival authoritarianisms.

Where is Islam going?: responses to Werner Schiffauer

Werner Schiffauer’s intimate study of the politics of a Turkish Islamic community in Germany was part of the Europe and Islam series of talks. At London’s Goethe Institute in July, Werner Schiffauer and Deniz Kandiyoti discussed with the audience the prospects for ‘reformation’ in Islam, the relation between citizenship and diaspora politics in Germany and Britain, and the consequences for democracy of educational and generational change in Muslim communities.
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