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Revista Brasileira de Ciência Política

On-line version ISSN 2178-4884

Rev. Bras. Ciênc. Polít.  no.22 Brasília Jan./Apr. 2017 


Marlène Laruelle: migração e agitação social como o rosto da globalização na Ásia Central

Marlène Laruelle: migration and social upheaval as the face of globalization in Central Asia

Thiago Corrêa Malafaia* 

1* Is currently a doctoral candidate in International Relations from Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais (PUC-Minas). Is also a researcher at Centro de Estudos e Pesquisas em Instituições Internacionais (CEPII) and at Grupo de Estudos Oriente Médio e Magreb (GEOMM). E-mail: <>.


Esta resenha faz referência ao livro Migration and Social Upheaval as the Face of Globalization in Central Asia, editado por Marlène Laruelle, que se concentra nas dimensões sociais e humanas da globalização e em como o fenômeno funciona como um catalisador à migração na Ásia Central. A região, convoluta como é por causa de fatores políticos, sociais e econômicos, é altamente impactada pelas oportunidades e pelos constrangimentos gerados pelo estado atual de interconectividade mundial.

Palavras-chave: migração; Ásia Central; distúrbio social; oportunidades de trabalho; gênero


This book review makes reference to the book Migration and Social Upheaval as the Face of Globalization in Central Asia, edited by Marlène Laruelle, which focuses on the social and human dimensions of globalization and on how the phenomenon acts as a catalyst to migration in Central Asia. The region, convoluted as it is because of political, social, and economic factors, is highly impacted by the opportunities and constraints brought about by the world’s current interconnectedness.

Keywords: migration; Central Asia; social upheaval; employment opportunities; gender

Migration patterns are an especially pressing theme in international relations. They presuppose a multitude of factors, ranging from the search of better employment opportunities, the need of escaping war-stricken locations, the hope of structuring a life in far-flung or not-so-far-flung regions, or to the ill-at-ease feeling in one’s own place of origin. The constant movement of people can present governments all over the world with varying opportunities and constraints. More so in Central Asia, where states, in varying degrees, can neither provide citizens with a business environment conducive to the creation of employment opportunities, nor can they guarantee a decent public service structure in order to allow people to build their careers and families properly. Naturally exceptions exist, an example of which being Kazakhstan, but also over there, people, above all immigrants, generally experience hardships. Such a situation can produce dire consequences for the state and effectively contribute to the fraying of the social fabric, both in manpower “exporter” countries and in “importer” ones.

That is the main theme of the book Migration and Social Upheaval as the Face of Globalization in Central Asia, edited by Marlène Laruelle (2013). Indeed, one can consider migration one of the facets of the acceleration of a globalizing trend. As labor markets went more and more global, seeking diminished production costs, more efficiency and labor division, they provided an incentive for people living in extremely poor countries to travel and try their luck in allegedly more prosperous markets. It is also important to note that migration flows are no longer exclusively North-South, but also East-West and South-South. All of these three migration patterns are present in the case of Central Asia.

One must bear in mind that the region suffered greatly from, maybe, one of the biggest events in the late 20th century: the collapse of the Soviet Union. The upheavals that ensued - waves of “ethnically European” residents returning to their original regions; the Tajik civil war, that created a massive amount of displaced persons internally and seeking refugee status abroad; the de-urbanization and deindustrialization, as a result of the movement of skilled labor towards more prosperous locations - contributed to the appalling figures presented by the authors. Approximately, 28 million of the 287 million inhabitants of the Soviet Union in 1989 (according to the latest census conducted by the Soviets) (GOSUDARSTVENNYI KOMITET SSSR PO STATISTIKE, 1989) have moved to another country since 1991. From those 28 million, approximately 6 to 7 million, in majority Russians, Germans, and Jews, have moved to Europe, North America, Israel or Australia. The rest, over 20 million, have relocated within the post-Soviet space, now ridden with independent states. What is most striking about these figures is the fact that Russia and, to a much lesser extent, Kazakhstan and Ukraine have been receiving the bulk of the flows. However, the situation is much more complicated, for these three countries are labeled “crossroads countries”, being located in a wider-ranging migration route from East to West and from South to North, in a nutshell, from Asia towards Europe and America.

Throughout the book and the contributing authors’ chapters it becomes clear that Central Asia is indeed unique when it comes to migration patterns. Even though the region has been one of the main sources of migrants to Russia and Kazakhstan, the establishment of such flows has not come without serious problems. The first is, obviously enough, of identity (dis)order. After the various contributing authors, there are severe issues in going to work abroad, when it comes to the nationalities involved. This practice is harsh on men for it is considered a part, and an important one, of the coming-of-age process, and also on women, for, should they emigrate, they may experience abuse abroad, should they not, they must face dire working conditions to make ends meet.

It is expected that men work abroad, markedly in Russia and Kazakhstan, make money and support their families through remittances. However, the more money one makes the more one is able of supporting also other, more “distanced”, members of one’s family, or rather one’s “extended family”. The more people one supports the more social prestige one receives upon returning home, markedly during the winter months, the off-season periods for seasonal workers, or during one’s vacation or lay-off periods, for those working in non-season-related jobs. By being able of performing these roles one can effectively contribute to turning one’s family into one of the “nouveaux riches”, for it now can afford “luxury” goods such as cars and computers. However, seeing other parts of the world and being able to meet other peoples and cultures can have a confusing and lasting effect on the lives of these young men who become frequently divided between supporting their families or supporting themselves, taking a mistress and/or leaving their espouses and children for good, returning home or settling definitely in the host countries. Those who cannot provide much or who refuse to migrate are frowned upon and experience a downgrade in “social value”. There is no telling how this trend can affect the populations of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kirgizstan, but one thing is certain: it is damaging, perhaps permanently, theses countries’ social fabrics.

Women are also deeply affected by globalization. The book has identified some trends for women migration, including feeling ill-at-ease in mostly patriarchal societies, searching for better employment opportunities, and marriage. They are mainly active in bazaars throughout Russia and Central Asian countries, being paramount to the “bazaar economy”. Unfortunately, there is only so much one can do. The risk of being harassed in all means imaginable and also of having their earnings and/or products being taken away by corrupt government officers and/or customs agents is real.

Another complex problem concerns the countries themselves. It is true that, for the “manpower exporting countries”- that is, basically, Kirgizstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan- an important part of their GDPs are composed of remittances from their own nationals abroad. However, that “benefit” is illusive at best. Firstly, because the wealth is not being produced domestically making it increasingly more difficult to carry out a steady development push. Secondly, for these countries may lose economically active population as more and more of those citizens show no love lost for their former countries and settle permanently in the host countries. Thirdly for these countries may lose the scant skilled labor they have to more prosperous markets, strangling their development potentials.

As for the host countries, constant waves of newcomers strain their social services, what increases the amount of investment these sectors demand. Another problem concerns the status of migrants. Most people enter illegally, what, per se, is already an issue. Furthermore, many associations set up shop. Their function would be to allegedly help recent-arriving persons familiarize with their host countries, but, being themselves composed of illegal immigrants, they are not especially entitled to do so. That is where one of the cruelest facets of the problem reveals itself. The associations do help these people find work... only, often of a kind not really regulated by the host countries’ legal frameworks, what forces them also to become alienated from their own countries’ embassies and consulates, making it all the more easy for them to be exploited and abused. Additionally, there is also the economic/financial problem for the host countries. They see wealth being generated inside national borders, through the labor of immigrants, even though an important part of it is not really spent domestically for many of these workers are adept at sending remittances to their families, in their original countries. Furthermore, there also have been demands from Kirgiz, Tajik and Uzbek populations to Moscow and Astana so that Russia and Kazakhstan provide for their pensions when they retire and return to their countries. Whatever type of future decision is to be made, it is bound to have the potential of causing socially, economically, and politically destabilizing effects. This disturbing scenario is topped by growing feelings of estrangement nurtured by the host countries’ nationals towards immigrants. Xenophobia is, for example, an especially growing trend in countries like Russia and there are no clear signs of it ceasing in the near future.

The book is marvelously put together, drawing on political science instruments. It focuses basically on qualitative analysis. There are two basic reasons for this. Sheer statistics cannot completely grasp the complexity of an inherently social phenomenon. Additionally, statistical data on migration, for Central Asia, is still limited. This is one of the main reasons the studies here encompassed are so “field studies-intensive”. This, however, makes so that some chapters lack a robust theoretical content, being more fact- than theory-driven - a trait recognized by the authors.

Thus, it is a study of Central Asian societies and of how they adapted to shock and upheaval through “meso-level” analysis. The advantage of working with the meso-level is that it makes it possible to apprehend how individual and collective identities are transformed, made, unmade, and remade, during migration and the interplay between personal and familial decisions and those based on traditional kinship considerations, as well as gender considerations. The book is comprised of four parts, each composed of four chapters and an introduction. The first part focuses mainly on the “push-pull” factors involved in migration flows and also the role performed by migrants in the Russian and Kazakh economies. The most striking feature is the fact that there seems to exist no evidence whatsoever of migration as a strategy to capture market share. Rather, survival seems to be the most important reason to migrate, in the context of Central Asian populations. The levels of macroeconomic investment seem to be close to null, what only reinforces the hypothesis of a drive essentially motivated towards escaping hardship at home by seeking better conditions abroad. Even though remittances have been utilized by families to pay off everyday debts, they do not seem to produce circular flow effects since there is little investment in fixed capital such as land, or in the productive sector such as the opening up of businesses.

The first chapter of the first part, by Sadovskaya, focuses mainly on the dynamics driving the choice of host country to migrate. Personal conditions, for her, seem to bear the brunt of the influence in this matter. The poorer the migrant, the nearer (s)he tends to travel. Farther countries, such as Russia, seem to provide more professional opportunities but, as the sums of money involved in travel expenses are higher, only those which have accumulated savings are able to make it. However, that does not preclude the existence of irregular migration. As the author duly showed, myriad statuses exist, ranging from undocumented, irregular, and professionally unqualified migrants to prosperous, qualified ones. Naturally, migrants organize themselves and help recent arrivals into the labor market, especially those who chose Russia as their host country. These organizations and entities do help migrants to cope with the excessively bureaucratic Russian system. Nevertheless, there are also many risks involved, especially for some groups, generally ethnically-based, engaged in criminal activities against migrants when they are at their most vulnerable moment: recent arrivals, of which a substantial parcel is illegal. The activities involved may range from blackmailing to trafficking.

The second chapter, by Marat, deals mainly with how the 2008 global financial crisis impacted migration flows. She suggests the impact was minimal and, to a certain degree, contradictory. It was believed, prior to the crisis, that the economic slowdown of Russian and Kazakh economies would lead to a reduction in the demand for labor in these countries, what became a source of concern for sending countries for they heavily rely on foreign remittances to beef up state revenue. As discussed above, remittances are, indeed, an important source of income for sending countries and they even encourage workers to leave so that they can be able to support their families at home and, in the process, provide their home countries with cash inflows. Nevertheless, the crisis actually amplified the need for unskilled labor, both in Russia and in Kazakhstan, for their cost-efficiency. To be sure, not all sectors of economic activity were equally affected by the crisis and some, most notably the construction sector, took a heavy blow. However, a substantial parcel of Russian and Kazakh sectors followed the trend and began hiring even more unskilled migrant workers. This situation worsened work conditions for migrant workers in receiving countries across the board and revealed the need for region-wide legislation on the matter.

The third chapter, by Olimova, continues analyzing the 2008 crisis but gives the issue a different spin. Her main focus lies on how Tajik migrants fared against the difficult odds brought by the event. Her account presents in a crystal-clear way how economic upheavals leave workers, particularly the most vulnerable, in difficult situations. Tajiks did manage to cope with the situation, but at the cost of a parcel of their salaries and, in a substantial amount of cases, by accepting not so good positions. Some, however, had no other option than to return to Tajikistan and, even there, they were the focus of social reprobation for not being able to support their families via working abroad.

The fourth chapter, by Laruelle, is aimed at analyzing what is the situation in Kazakhstan, when it comes to migration. She suggests the country is one both of departures as it is of arrivals. The scenario here is very diverse: migrants may seek to stay for good and so migrate with their families, while others may only seek seasonal work; as for those which depart (mainly to Russia), the same situation presented earlier when it comes to host countries apply. Even though Kazakh authorities have tried to construct an international legal framework for migrant labor, agreement has been reached only with Kyrgyzstan. On top of that, authorities have to deal with an imbalance of migration flows coming to different parts of the country.

The second part stresses migration as basically a process of adapting, carried out by Kirgiz, Tajiks, and Uzbeks to the collapse of the Soviet Union and all the social and political upheavals that followed. Domestic events, to be sure, have played an important role in the process and, even though many Russian speakers have left Russia, causing a de-urbanization push, the expansion of the tertiary sector, coupled with the need of workforce to man the bureaucracies of these now independent countries provoked a population exodus from rural towards urban areas. Naturally, in some countries, such as Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the process was pushed with greater impetus, mainly because of flexibilization in registration procedures. Nevertheless, the whole situation developed by leaps and bounds at a complex time. One of the elements of complexity was the complete breakdown of the industrial sector following on the collapse of the Soviet Union. Additionally, poverty rates in the countryside skyrocketed, what only contributed to disordered labor migration. In countries which still have higher than average fertility rates, globalization means more competition for one’s subsistence as well as land scarcity. Add to it the low productivity rates of rural areas and one has a recipe for a disaster waiting to happen.

As land becomes a scarce commodity, its prices tend to increase, what encourages fierce overcrowding of the best agricultural sites. Other problems, these of a cultural character, also present themselves. One such example is the traditional cultivation of some commodities, such as cotton, which oftentimes clash with the interest in growing food crops, only making so that countries become even more recalcitrant in implementing land reforms. Naturally, this only yields towards several severe environmental issues, such as soil over-use, as well as political (corruption in state administrative instances), and social ones (criminal activities such as child labor). The social and economic effects produced by such a multitude of issues are severe. For one, these social constraints encourage the intensification of patriarchal forms of social organization, especially in the countryside, where subsistence production over-empowers the holders of pieces of land, mainly male family members, encouraging, at its turn, endogamy and barter economies, since subsistence production does not leave much space for a fully monetarized economy.

One might think only unskilled, lesser educated persons living in the countryside are affected. However, evidence presented in this part of the book strongly suggests recent university undergraduates are also being severely affected. As they leave universities and see no prospects of getting a job, they tend to migrate to other areas, these being, mainly, Russia and Kazakhstan. Sure, Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tajik governments welcome the exodus of these persons as a way of relieving social pressure. Nevertheless, the effects of such a strategy are likely to be deleterious in the future for they are getting rid of their already small pool of skilled workers. Naturally for states, which harbor such significant numbers in migrants such as Russia and Kazakhstan, domestic political impacts are also bound to happen. As communities of foreigners increase, they tend to influence politics both in their host and in their home countries and this factor is already triggering xenophobic reactions, especially in Russia.

It is in such a thread that the authors of this second part perform their research. The first chapter, by Alymbaeva, focuses on the effects of domestic mobility in Kyrgyz society. Kyrgyzstan is a multicultural society that presents, however, different mobility rates for their different ethnic groups. European populations have largely emigrated after the collapse of the Soviet Union; whereas the Uzbek minority in the South has only turned more mobile recently. However, ethnic Kyrgyz are very mobile and this is shown by recent urbanization figures. The most striking characteristic of this internal migration is the amount of not so young people who are leaving the countryside towards the cities, most notably Bishkek. Naturally, a multitude of problems arise out of this. Most important of all is disordered urbanization, evidenced by the amount of undocumented land occupations and all of the social problems derived from illegal households and the insecurity it entails.

The second chapter, by Hohmann, focuses on how migration from the countryside to urban areas and emigration from Tajikistan impacted the country’s health system. There are two main drives for migration, generally speaking, in Tajikistan: the Tajik civil war and labor migration. The civil war from 1992-1997 caused the emigration of about 250,000 persons, mainly of European ascent (read European parts of the Soviet Union). These were among the wealthiest in Tajikistan, which made departure less problematic. Ethnic Tajiks were not so lucky and almost 20% of the population became internally displaced. Domestic labor migration picked up momentum from the mid-1990s onwards and seems to be affected by the regions, which migrants are coming from. Persons coming from high-altitude areas tend to settle down indefinitely in lower areas, whereas persons leaving lower areas only tend to migrate for the season. All things considered, the situation took a severe toll on Tajik health system. Unable to cope with patients’ high mobility rates, medical care is carried out at less than satisfactory standards, follow-ups are almost impracticable, making so that essential activities such as vaccination and epidemiological prevention be enacted with marginal efficiency. Mobility is also taking a toll on families. As the number of early marriages is on the rise, and as the health system is unable to keep track of pregnancies at a young age, a large number of such pregnancies go unreported, causing these young mothers to go unattended. The result is an increased tendency of deaths at childbirth.

The third chapter, by Braux, focuses on how the Azeri, once they reach Russia, articulate themselves in order to adapt to and integrate in Russian society. She does take stock on history and performs a historical analysis, which dates back to Soviet era migration patterns. Sure, internal mobility heavily contributed to Azeri concentration in Moscow and in West Siberia. They hoped to improve their chances by moving to the most important city in all of the union as well as to the oil producing cities to the East of the Urals. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought about a period of extreme hardship for Central Asian and Caucasian countries, encouraging yet another wave of migrants coming from these regions. Evidence suggests that the more skilled a laborer is the less likely (s)he is to return to her/his home country and that naturally means less or no remittances to families at home.

Another associated problem arises: social organization abroad. Azeri flock together and form associations in Russia. However, such associations generally compete for the legitimacy to represent Azeri abroad as well as for building a reputation with Russian and Azerbaijani bureaucracies what naturally leads to a series of issues.

The fourth chapter, by Dolotkeldieva, focuses, on the other hand, on Kyrgyz strategies to cope with Russian authorities in Moscow. She considers migration as a strategy of adaptation. Background diversity is again a feature when it comes to Kyrgyz migrants in Russia and, in order to integrate more easily into Russian society, they usually seek lesser-paid jobs, even those which hold higher education degrees. Even then, it is not always easy to cope with the rampant corruption of some sectors of the bureaucracy. Thus, the payment of bribes and protection money to police officers is a common practice for Kyrgyz migrants, which, due to their dubious legal status in Russia, are not properly assisted by their country’s diplomatic services. Furthermore, another recurring theme, one already discussed in the contexts of other migrants, is also the existence of associations, which, for better or worse, also contribute to migrants’ permanence in such a situation. Another common theme is the Kyrgyz associations’ bid for political influence in Russia. This objective has been pursued, though, with varying degrees of success.

The third part sheds light on the intricacies of spatial and identity mobility, how these two elements influence identity shifts, and how these events are contributing to the mono-ethinicization of Central Asia - a trend currently under way. The collapse of the Soviet Union provoked the mass migration of ethnical minorities. Moreover, the five republics focused by this book experienced a high birth rate. This combination of factors has led to the growth of already majority ethnic groups. Some countries such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan even encouraged the return of Kazakhs and Kyrgyz living in neighboring countries, helping to increase even more the participation of majority groups in their total respective populations. The homogenization process is carried further by policies aimed at reducing the space of ethnic minorities in the public sector. Thus, they are forced to move to certain specific occupations in the private sector.

One very important note has to be taken, however. Even though migrants oftentimes face harsh situations, a substantial parcel of such persons should not be considered mainly victims. This happens for there is a high degree of volition involved and, culturally, migration is seen by Central Asian populations as a sort of rite of passage important to the family, even if it can produce change at the personal level. Remittances are an important part of that as they are used by the families at home to show how well one is faring. They also provide a means to strengthen social and familial bonds. Social bonds are actually very important for they seem to interfere even with the most mundane things in life. For Central Asians, social reputation can help in finding partners for marriage, securing a place in university for one’s children or even a better treatment in hospitals in the event of health complications. However, some persons feel that this is a heavier burden than they have bargained for and try to break the cycle, what explains the cases in which migrants settle permanently in host countries and effectively sever ties with their families.

It is against this background of diminishing social diversity that Peyrouse crafts his analysis on population mobility. The reasons for the emigration of minorities, especially those of “European ascent” are multifarious. To be sure, the author does stress some reasons seem more important than others. The first of these reasons is related to economic problems. Second place comes the estrangement these minorities feel in the newly independent countries. This scenario surely creates political problems. Governments explore the situation taking a populist and segregationist turn, arguing that natives or majority populations should be regarded in higher esteem than minorities. These minorities’ native countries, on the other hand, set up repatriation strategies. Both factors feedback each other and that only yields to the further mono-ethnicization of the region.

The second chapter, by Ferrando, analyzes the other side of the coin, how ethnical minorities feel. For him, these minorities seem to feel dually affiliated: to their host country and to their kin-country. Associations have attempted to secure some prerogatives though their success depends, largely, on host countries’ political will. To be sure, some countries, mainly Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, have set up repatriation policies. However, these have been focused only on expats living outside ex-Soviet space. They have, nevertheless, refrained from doing so in relation to co-ethnic populations living on other Central Asian countries. Be it as it may, migration is a theme which Central Asian countries cannot control and repatriations seem to make up the bulk of population inflows to Central Asian countries.

The third chapter, by Massot, focuses on Uzbek disordered urbanization and, more specifically, how have personal and community identities been transformed in the process. Rural migrants discover, upon arrival, a certain “uzbekness”, a trait, which settles them apart from other urban minorities. This causes stereotypization and the effective exercise of categorization of fellow urban dwellers, which do not share in the same characteristics. There seems to exist a hierarchy social code, which gives different values to persons depending on what their regions of origin are. Recently arrived rural workers have to learn such “vocabulary” and that is not an easy task for it requires whole ontological discourses to be re-written.

The fourth chapter, also by Massot, sheds light on how such identities undergo transformation when workers go work abroad. Identities suffer an even more potent transformation effect as persons begin to question their place in society, their social function, as well as their motives in undergoing such traumatizing experiences to support their families. Certain preconceptions dear to the traditional functioning of Uzbek society are also exposed to sustained attack, what may cause feelings of disconnection with one’s kin culture. The results vary but such identity interplay is, sure, one of the factors influencing the return to Uzbekstan: some may not make an effort to return as soon as possible; other may simply decide to settle definitely in host countries.

The fourth and final part of the “compendium” focuses specifically on the gender-related aspect of migration; both how the concept of masculinity to Central Asians can be migration-dependent and how women cope with the migration mindset. It is generally accepted that Central Asian societies be depicted as patriarchal and conservative. Nevertheless, there seems to exist many layers to that. Gender identity is constantly under (re)adjustments and the phenomenon of migration starkly influences the way and direction of such processes. During the Soviet era, the presence of “European minorities” meant that such interplay did not establish gender relations, which could be described as strictly functioning under a male/female divide. Indeed, Soviet influence and the presence of ethnically different populations, despite minoritarian, certainly played a moderating role in Central Asian societies. Thus, they could effectively be distinguished from other areas in which Muslim majorities inhabit. After the Soviet collapse, migration took over as the most important factor regulating gender identities. In Kyrgyzstan, for example, increasing numbers of women are migrating, alone or with familial units. It is true that men still migrate more than women for a myriad of reasons, many of which socially-bound. Nevertheless, female migration is a trend in expansion. Even in countries where social roles are more fixed and less mobile, such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, women migration is also a developing trend, albeit at a slower pace than in Kyrgyzstan.

Be as it may, there seems to exist three basic strong patterns of migration in the whole of Central Asia though, as discussed above, other possibilities are not precluded: a) shuttle trade (female in character); b) unskilled labor towards more competitive markets; and c) marriage-related migration (almost completely feminine in character). As a large parcel of men migrate, societies have had to learn to live without them. True, many return during the winter months, during off-season periods, and something akin to a “rite of passage” takes place, when they make sure social bonds are still standing and take the opportunity to reinforce them. Nevertheless, their absence confers women more independence as remittance money generally comes in irregular flows and, thus, they become leaders of households and the ones responsible to make ends meet. The situation naturally comes with hardship for they take responsibility for the bulk of chores related to households, especially for the ones in rural areas, which means working in cotton fields, tending to the children and the elderly, as well as selling the household’s produce by themselves. This also means that they are counting on the men’s return during the off-season. However, many do not come back, be it because of health problems, death, or because they decide to settle permanently in the host countries, what naturally impacts the families left behind in many different, but negative ways. The prospects of married or recently married women left behind by their spouses are dire and the social effects of it remain, for the most part, unknown.

The first chapter of the fourth part, by Reeve, explores the impacts of migration on the masculine gender identity. For her, the “rite of passage” is important for masculine social validation. This means that men’s social value is inextricably dependent on how well they fare during the months they spend abroad. This also means that migration entails risks, not only related to ontological security, but also physical, as they tend to accept dangerous and health-risky jobs in an attempt to provide more to their families and extended families. Society can be harsh on those who cannot or will not migrate as they experience social “downgrading”. Migrating men are often confronted with difficult choices: to spend on one’s well-being or to remit the bulk of one’s earnings back to the family. What explains why some cut ties permanently, contributing further to the fraying of social fabric.

The second chapter, by Piart, sheds light on the modification of Uzbek migrant women statuses. She focuses on the specific case of women shuttle traders in Istanbul, Turkey. Here, gender stereotypes set in: while men are deemed prolific spenders, women are viewed as good traders and disciplined savers. These stereotypes become even more acute because of the character of shuttle trade, which tends to favor goods generally considered more important in women’s “consumption baskets” than men’s. The profiles are varied but two trends can be observed: a) young women following on family strategies controlled by male figures; and b) older or divorced women, which experience a higher social status for they are either unfit for or unneeded in domestic duties. Be it as it may, Piart suggests all of them experience a downgrade in social status and often fall prey to corrupt state officials who might demand protection money and, in the case of non-compliance, may actually confiscate their goods and earnings. This situation effectively contributes to the spread of the belief that market capitalism is essentially predatory at its pith and picks on the most vulnerable.

The third chapter, by Khusenova, analyzes the situation born by Tajik women working at bazaars in Moscow. She suggests that the situation of these women is substantially worse than those involved in shuttle trade as they oftentimes become involved in lesser jobs and enjoy substantially lower social status. Even those which have formal qualification cannot effectively break this cycle as their abilities are generally unrelated to the jobs they are performing. Incidentally, they tend to internalize traditional stereotypes on migrant women and tend to value feminine traditional gender roles over those of host countries’, expecting their offspring to follow on such social norms to the detriment of what they really want.

The fourth chapter, by Bélouin, explores how migration affects professional urban women. They normally tend to try to leave post-Soviet spaces for more competitive markets as they suppose they would have more chances at good jobs there. This way, the most favored places are Europe and, to a much lesser extent, the Gulf States. Many strategies can be used to reach such an objective: from studying abroad to marrying a foreigner. Bélouin warns, however, not to classify their motives as merely opportunistic as feelings of “ill- at-ease” and refusal to accept local traditional gender norms also play a part in their strategies. Cultural capital is paramount to this objective and the more one’s social net extends the better one’s chances of escaping the oppressive social environment become.

What is most striking in this book is how the authors masterfully managed to show how states that cannot provide even the most basic public services to their populace play a pronounced part into migration and how they encourage migration, to a certain extent. Nevertheless, social dynamics also significantly influence personal choices.This is one of those studies that makes one think about how dire is the outlook of weak states and how in need of development they are. It is indeed impacting and also leads to reflection about the consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the associated termination of the Cold War. Naturally, there goes a long way to becoming a developed country, but people should at least have prospects of being able to lead a full life, with work opportunities, and decent living conditions. All in all, it is an excellent read and the book may appease those who are interested in field studies, qualitative analysis, Central Asian area studies, Political Science, International Relations, and Sociology; students and practitioners alike.


LARUELLE, Marlène (Ed.). Migration and social upheaval as the face of globalization in Central Asia. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill, 2013. [ Links ]

GOSUDARSTVENNYI KOMITET SSSR PO STATISTIKE. Vsesoyuznaya perepis’ naselenja 1989. Moscow: Gosudarstvennyi Komitet Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik po Statistike, 1989. [ Links ]

Received: February 08, 2016; Accepted: January 23, 2017

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