Research Fellow Dr Karolina Kluczewska and the Global Cooperation Microcosm of Tajikistan

Postdoc research fellow Dr Karolina Kluczewska joined the Centre’s research group 'Global cooperation and diverse conceptions of world order' in February 2021. Her research project, ‘Conceptualising competing conceptions of world order through the eyes of aid recipients? Governance models, developmental visions and imaginaries of the future in Central Asia: The case of post-Soviet Tajikistan’, looks at Tajikistan as a microcosm for international peacebuilding and development interventions following the Soviet collapse and subsequent civil war (1992–1997).

Tajikistan represents a plurality of concerns of global cooperation due to the involvement of Western donors, as well as Russia, China, India, Turkey, and Gulf states in its peacebuilding and development processes. Dr Kluczewska’s research ‘investigates local perception of seemingly incompatible prospects of world order promoted in Tajikistan from the outside’ and asks, ‘how actors on the ground understand the differences between governance models, developmental visions, and imaginaries of the future advanced by donors with whom they interact’. How does the country navigate its relationship to the international community in a way that maintains current channels of aid, and how do these externally imposed conceptions of world order interact with local priorities and views?

Bringing a wealth of professional and academic experience to her research, Kluczewska has published widely on topics related to Tajikistan. With recent teaching and fellowship positions in Conflict Studies (University of Marburg), Dynamics of Security (University of Giessen), Social and Anthropological Research (Tomsk State University), and International Relations (Tajik National University), she lends her expertise in Tajikistan and its manifold socio-political themes to the Centre and adds a valuable perspective to our understanding of Central Asia’s complex and dynamic interactions with the international community.

Two recent publications serve to highlight Karolina’s engagement. First, the paper ‘Engaging with Labour Migrants: Emigration Policy in Tajikistan’ (Asian Studies Review); second, a policy brief entitled ‘Advancing Peacebuilding from the Ground Up’, (Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, University of Hamburg).

‘Engaging with Labour Migrants: Emigration Policy in Tajikistan’, co-authored with Oleg Korneev, analyses the country’s large contribution to migrant labour and the policy procedures implicated therein. Noting that the existing literature of diasporic communities from Central Asia has focused disproportionately on the experiences and policy considerations of migrants in their host country, Kluczewska and Korneev shift focus toward the home state of migrant labourers, with specific reference to emigration policymaking in the post-Soviet space.

The article defines a stark divide between research dealing with foreign policymaking and that from Tajikistan itself. Specifically, the researchers are interested in migrant labourers whose departure from their home country is an economically driven decision, not one derived from political considerations. The key to understanding policy processes, the authors write, is to ‘de-reify the Tajik state to account for the complexity of policy processes’. This turn represents a marked departure from the existing literature, which has been primarily focused on statistical analysis of emigration policy, rather than the actual, lived experience of those working abroad and the complex web of considerations from their home country that factor into their decisions, limitations, and working relationships.

Concluding that ‘Tajikistan’s emigration policy needs to be seen in the context of the contemporary globalised and interconnected world’, the authors acknowledge that Tajik emigration is not, and never has been, a linear relationship. Contradictions in policymaking, influenced by IOs and international donors, reflect a neglect of the human dimension of this relationship and often lead to negative consequences for migrant populations.

In a distinct, but thematically related vein, the policy brief, ‘Advancing Peacebuilding from the Ground Up’, co-authored with Anna Kreikemeyer, also offers criticism of the actions of IOs, this time in the peacebuilding process in Central Asia (drawing on the two authors’ fieldwork in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan). The authors see top-down measures from IOs as counterproductive in peacebuilding and suggest a focus on local agency in these proceedings.

Problematizing the complex relationships that local communities have in conflict situations, the authors focus on the necessity to consider the local when attempting mitigation. The beliefs and traditions of individual communities should factor into attempts at problem resolution. Conventional, local wisdom, often overlooked by concerned IOs, is indispensable in peace negotiations and reflects a Western-centric understanding inapplicable to Central Asia and other regions.

The emotional transactions of communicating and caring are the driving, informal methods of peacebuilding on the ground, and cannot be separated from the communities concerned. IOs, according to Kluczewska and Kreikemeyer, have much to learn about particular culturally informed conflict resolution. ‘Indirect mediation is a cornerstone of local peace’, a traditional reservoir of received wisdom which cannot be overlooked. IOs cannot expect their interventions to have legitimacy without building relationships in the local communities with which they interact.

Conflict always has a local component which needs to be understood at the local level. Without this understanding of concerned actors, resolutions are imposed rather than negotiated. The process requires increased ‘openness and commitment from both IOs and communities with regard to possible divides between their respective value systems’. Both local and international actors need to confront the dynamics of power. The authors call for critical reflection on the part of these actors ‘in order to reach new levels of collaboration’.


Andrew Costigan