No Escape from Ideology? Comparing Imaginaries of Global Development in the Former Soviet Periphery

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Hörsaal III (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Polina MANOLOVA, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
Philipp LOTTHOLZ, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
This paper aims at further extending and refining perspectives that are critical of the teleological and constructed nature of ideas about development, transformation and globalization, as well as the outcomes that such ideas have produced throughout history. We venture to inquire how people in the former Soviet periphery make sense of the transformation they have undergone since the breakdown of socialism. Drawing on sociological and socio-psychological perspectives on postsocialist societies, we discuss and use the concept of the ‘imaginary West’. The latter has fundamentally shaped the way in which people came to understand postsocialist reforms, democratization and integration into the global economy. By drawing on fieldwork data from Bulgaria and Kyrgyzstan we will show how the ‘imaginary West’ is a frame of reference through which people identify with Western liberal values, or, on the other hand, adhere to ‘non-Western’ values, which are seen to appreciate tradition and cultural heritage. Both Bulgaria and Kyrgyzstan lie in the periphery of the EU and the former Soviet Union, respectively, with Bulgaria at the crossroads between allegiance to its old brethren and the newly embraced path of European integration. The empirical picture we draw suggests that people’s ideological and moral orientation is inevitably embedded in the discourses of the old, imperial ‘centres’ and perpetuates the binary of ‘Western vs. non-Western’ values. Furthermore, these orientations also seem to adopt and reproduce orientalist stereotypes and colonial thinking. We also, however, identify further individual positionings that cannot be fitted into this ideological binary. These seem to provide a way forward as they envisage independence and emancipation vis-a-vis external economic conditionality, political hegemonies and Western epistemic dominance. We conclude, however, that it is questionable whether these positionings develop enough momentum to be framed as viable alternatives to bipolar geopolitical and capitalist-developmental ideological mappings of the world.