Shaping inequalities or building social bonds? Ceremonial economy under and after socialism in Central Asia (1960-2020), (with the participation of Prof Silvia Serrano)

Project summary

This collective interdisciplinary project deals with life-cycle ceremonies and festive sociability spending; a growing phenomenon among Central Asian populations (in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) that has taken ostentatious dimensions between the end of the 1960s and this day. These practices have taken on such proportion that they drove the States to legislate to mitigate their nefarious effect on the national economic development and the individual household budgets. This project proposes to study the extent of this phenomenon under a dual perspective. Our aim is to apprehend ceremonial economy and its inflationary nature as one of the engines behind the reconfiguration of social bonds in Central Asian societies through its capacity to generate group cohesion. It will also analyse how one-upmanship and social injunctions to spend more contribute to create social differentiation and, in fine, uphold hierarchies and forms of solidarities that reinforce statutory, economic and even political inequalities. A key parameter in the analysis of these transformations is the transition from a Soviet system based on restricted or discretionary access to consumer goods to a neoliberal market economy and consumerism. This research aims at shedding light on the rationales behind ceremonial economy in order to proffer a comparison to the inflationist forms it takes in many other societies over the world, such as China, Vietnam, Senegal, etc. It will help impart expertise of remarkably valuable use on these matters to public institutions, civil society and non-governmental organizations.

Project dates



Project coordinated by Isabelle Ohayon.
Centre d’étude des mondes russe, caucasien et centre-européen, CNRS/EHESS, Centre Emile Durkheim, Bordeaux Institute of Political Science/CNRS


External funding : ANR -Agence nationale de la recherche –French National Research Agency-.