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Urban agriculture and foraging in a postindustrial town in Kazakhstan

Author Tabea ROHNER
Director of thesis
Co-director of thesis
Summary of thesis

My PhD project is an ethnography of a small, former single-industry town in Southeast Kazakhstan, which has recently been recovering after many years of decline after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in the town, I explore the urban community’s experience of post-industrialism after and beyond decline. More specifically, I investigate the foundation of the town’s ability to endure in the contemporary, market oriented global economic system in spite of the seemingly adverse social and economic characteristics inherited from its past as a single-industry town. I argue that one important factor that contributes to the urban community’s resilience is the town’s bucolic character; the many fruit trees, berry bushes and abundant availability of wild mushrooms and the widespread practice of urban gardening on small plots on the fringes of the town. In combination with the tenacious Soviet infrastructure and built urban environment, local practices of greening enabled the urban community to cope with difficult circumstances. The findings of my project contribute to a better understanding of urban communities’ many-sided experiences of postindustrialism that goes beyond decline, loss and suffering. Also, my findings indicate that urban agriculture might be a potential resource to confront pressing global challenges such as food security and ecological sustainability and is thus interesting not only for anthropologists but also practitioners.

Status finishing
Administrative delay for the defence 2021 or 2022