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Conference “Understanding legal cultures in Central Asia” on 6-8 November, 2021

Conference title: Understanding legal cultures in Central Asia on 6-8 November, 2021 in Istanbul, Turkey
Conference title “Understanding legal cultures in Central Asia” on 6-8 November, 2021 in Istanbul, Turkey

Central Asian Law project organized the conference titled “Understanding legal cultures in Central Asia” on 6-8 November in Istanbul, Turkey. The conference focused on the discussion of the interconnections between international actors, domestic institutions, business actors, as well as informal institutions and norms and how their interplay shape the governance, legal culture and business environment in Central Asia. The conference generated in-depth discussions about the development of the rule of law system in the region, differences in understandings of rule of law in five Central Asian countries, as well as the development trajectories in Central Asia since gaining Independence. The conference participants comprised of 25 project participants and 5 invited guest speakers, including 11 female researchers

Conference participants

The conference participants comprised of project beneficiaries – Lund University (Sweden), University of Zurich (Switzerland), Marmara University (Turkey), Charles University of Prague (Czech Republic), as well as project partners – Tebigy Kuwwat Social Unit Enterprise (Turkmenistan), Academy of the General Prosecutors Office of Uzbekistan (Uzbekistan), SIAR Research and Consulting company (Kyrgyz Republic), Khujand Polytechnic Institute of Tajik Technical University (Tajikistan), Westminster International University in Tashkent (Uzbekistan).

During the three-day conference, participants made presentations on their research projects. The presentations were divided into four research streams. The first research stream focused on the international actors in the region and included research projects about the sovereignty of natural resources, incorporation of Central Asian countries into the world systems after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the role of donors in the promotion of the rule of law system. The second research stream covered such topics as the role of economic institutions in agricultural transformation in Uzbekistan, governance of technoparks, local governance structure as decentralization of power, development of legal culture, among others. The third research stream included research projects on the business actors, and included topics about corporate criminal liability, settlement of economic disputes, foreign investment conditions, digital economy and its taxation, shadow economy and gender, etc. The fourth research stream focused on understanding the informal institutions and norms that govern the business relations in the region, and hence included such presentations as morally justified informal practices within the Tajik socio-legal life, the attitudes of workers towards informal employment, and legal transnationalism of Uzbek migrants in Russia.

The conference also included 4 keynote speeches, including by invited guest speakers. Peter Finke, Prof. Dr. at the Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies of the University of Zurich talked about different transformation paths in Central Asia since gaining independence. Dr. Rano Turaeva, associated researcher of the Max Planck Institute of Social Anthropology presented her research on “Implications of Implications of Informalisation Processes for Legal Cultures in the Global South: Examples from Post-Soviet Economies”. Dr. Assel Tutumlu from Near East University made a presentation on “Authoritarian Rule as a Normative Practice: Lessons and Opportunities”, which generated discussions about different approaches to and definitions of authoritarianism and regional dynamics. Keynote speech by Dr. Irna Hofman, post-doctoral research associate at the University of Oxford China Centre, presented the observations from her recent fieldwork in Tajikistan and talked about understanding law as performance and perceptions of law in rural Tajikistan. Other invited guest speakers – Nargiza Kilichova (PhD candidate at Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies at the University of Regensburg) and Sherzod Eraliev (postdoctoral researcher at the Aleksanteri Institute - Finnish Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Helsinki) also presented their research projects on “Rule of law promotion in Central Asia” and “Legal transnationalism of Uzbek Migrants in Russia” respectively.

Irna Hofman is presenting her project on "Law is only for the poor" & "Law is only for the rich"

Apart from presentations, the conference also included sessions of practical support to young researchers. Project participants discussed at what stage their research project is at, what kind of challenges they are facing, as well as what types of skills are needed. The young researchers from Central Asian countries also received advice and suggestions from the research stream leaders on their research proposals.  

Conference participants discussion in groups

Overall, the conference covered important topics of the development of a business environment in Central Asia and its interplay with the socio-legal issues in the region. It generated useful discussions about the theoretical frameworks to analyse the state of the rule of law application in the region. The conference participants agreed to take forward the support to young researchers and the schedule of publications of academic works were set for the next year.

Conference participants during the conference in Istanbul, Turkey
Group photo of the conference participants in Istanbul, Turkey