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The monumental and the miniature: imagining 'modernity' in Astana

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This article examines the elite nation-building project in post-independence Kazakhstan through an analysis of monumental architecture and miniature models in Astana. It considers the role of the country's new capital as a modernist project, in which elite geopolitical imaginaries are multiply inscribed in the cityscape. Drawing on interdisciplinary literatures on modernity and authoritarian regime legitimation, the article considers modernity as a discursive trope employed in legitimating the Nazarbayev government, and one that has various material manifestations in the urban landscape of Astana. The research is based on fieldwork in Kazakhstan in Summer 2009, and examines architecture, monuments, and the 2009 Astana Day celebrations. Through a focus on the monumental and the miniature, it highlights their similar roles in transforming symbols of Kazakhstani independence and identity into objects of reverie outside the field of political contestation.

Keywords: Kazakhstan; authoritarianism; miniatures; modernity; monumentality; urban landscape

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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