Dissertation Abstracts

Transitions in Post-Soviet Uzbek Society: A Study of Youth Culture

Author: Bhat, Mohd Aslam, bhat.aslam@yahoo.com
Department: Centre of Central Asian Studies
University: University of Kashmir, India
Supervisor: Prof. Tareak A. Rather
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Youth Transitions , Central Asia , Uzbekistan , Youth Culture
Areas of Research: Youth , Political Sociology , Comparative Sociology


One of the main aims of my thesis was to broaden the discussion on youth culture and youth transitions discourse critically by moving beyond the geographical terrain of North America, Britain, Australia and Europe, where the contemporary discursive interpretations of young people’s everyday lives have been widely influenced by sociological preoccupations with ‘individualisation’ and its social and political implications. In many respects these theoretical positions give an impression that young people world-wide share the same challenges, interests and concerns, remark on the commonality of experience – signifying a freeing up of established patterns of transitions and fluid identities.
Conversely, my first point of departure in my thesis was that despite the easier and more democratic access to education and more room for flexibility over one’s life course than ever before, social and historical continuities still persist and make for differently perceived as well as real life transitions into adulthood. Against this backdrop, my thesis, though has a certain narrative historical form, begins with a critical appraisal of the contemporary sociological conceptualisations around the study of social transformations and youth culture and youth transitions, and then on the basis of an ethnographic field work (conducted in Uzbekistan in 2012) material moves-on to locate the scenario of Central Asian youth in general and Uzbek in particular. The thesis demonstrates that every generation bears the ineluctable stamp of the strategic historical experiences to which it has been exposed. Under the now-gone Soviet political system young people were valorised as the ‘Great State of the Future’ and were brought up in an environment that shaped them according to the so-called ‘Moral Code of Communism’. However, when the Soviet Union disintegrated, many Central Asian young people saw their world turned upside down, as their status reduced and their financial and political future became uncertain. Specifically locating the episode of Uzbek youth culture and youth transitions, I do feel no hesitations in summarising the stance of post-Soviet Uzbek youth by saying simply that their current scenario shows a full-on reversal of the hard-won gains of the old order: today’s dispossession of the Uzbek youth of their horizon of possibility is much wider and deeper with few immersed in conspicuous consumption, while other are engrossed and entangled in familial and personal anticipations. Still others are ‘impoverished at-risk’, engaged in non-conformist survival strategies. These impoverished youth and vulnerable ambitious youth together constitute a big category of ‘at risk youth’ in Uzbekistan, the stance and carriage of whose life trajectories are loaded with the dangers of ‘failed citizenship’.
Nonetheless, if demography is destiny, then the destiny of Central Asia is appalling, given the increasingly risk-laden transition of young people in this region. The Central Asian political elite thus need to realize that the antidote is not to suppress youth via cultural discourse and the power of the State, but rather to prepare youth to act productively at the very heart of the unfolding global economic and cultural order of late capitalism and post-modernity. In this respect, I ask political scientists, sovietologists, transitologists, demographers and sociologists in general to give serious consideration to the dilemmas of youth in Central Asia, which they have so far proven slow to take on board.