Barbara Meier

Everyday Geopolitics: Transnational Identifications and Aspirations in affective encounters with University Students in Bishkek and Osh (Kyrgyzstan)

Personal Information:

Barbara Meier

Löbdergraben 32, 07743 Jena

Raum 236

Telefon: +49 3641 9-48845

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Research interests related to Diaspora:

  • aspired mobilities of youth
  • establishing sympathies as a geopolitical strategy
  • informational sources for transnational aspirations

Provisional working title of the doctoral project: Everyday Geopolitics: Transnational Identifications and Aspirations in affective encounters with University Students in Bishkek and Osh (Kyrgyzstan)


In the recent past, global spheres of power politics are shifting, of which China´s Belt & Road Initiative is a prominent example. These shifts can be retraced not only in economic contexts, but also in quotidian, consumptive ones. Shifting from this macro-perspective, it is particularly interesting to investigate how people in the peripheries of these geopolitical imaginaries orient themselves and where they strive to. Do such imaginaries influence the choice to learn a certain foreign language or for a certain study programme? Where do students see themselves in the future? What are sources of information for decisions connected to possible futures of students? Do those decisions reflect in materialities of students´ everyday lives? Such effects often reveal indirectly as sympathies, identifications or aspirations. I aim to retrace these moments of transnational affinity in my PhD project.

My study investigates which transnational aspirations and identifications students in Bishkek and Osh (Kyrgyzstan) negotiate for themselves. In order to trace the postulated global shifts, I try to make them palpable in affective moments of sympathy. To what extent are the discourses of structural institutions (e. g. the educational system or cultural-diplomatic institutions), of which students consume contents, reflected in such moments?

Conceptualizing place according to Massey (1991) as articulated moments in networks of social relations, that reach beyond the place itself at the given moment, puts a focus on the relationality of place. Thus, decisions taken on a local level can imply broad outreach. For example, decisions for a certain study programme or studies abroad. As there is a wide range of factors influencing these decisions (e. g. socialization, peer groups, families, personal connections;) which cannot be fully reflected, I try to grasp them in moments of affect.

I therefore refer to Bourdieu (2017, 2020) to connect processes of socialization (which form the habitus) with aspirations of the individual in an almost iterative process. In terms of the affectual approach of my research design Bourdieu provides with an important understanding as he also points out the bodily dimension in the formation of the habitus. In turn, the self-perception and self-understanding of youth is intertwined with whom they perceive it possible or desirable to become in the future (Geller 2015). The special interest of my study lies on how and to what extent students include plans for transnational mobility in their aspired futures. Especially for young people, aspired social mobility is tied to spatial mobility and should be perceived as a potential or likeliness of being mobile in the future (Bjarnason & Thorlindsson 2006).

In my fieldwork I implement a combination of ethnographic field research and visual methods in the spectrum of participatory methodology in order to generate a broad specter of resonances. The regional focus on Kyrgyzstan is of special interest, as it lies at the intersection of different spheres of influence: Russian, “Western”, the Islamic World, South- and South-East Asian (Kirmse 2010).

Inspired by critical geopolitics, I pursue an approach that critically illuminates and discusses the non-representative processes of geopolitics beyond classical elites. Applying this understanding of transnational politics makes my research attachable to current questions of diaspora studies.


Keywords: everyday geopolitcs, transnational sympathies, aspired migration, possible futures, affective methodologies

Project duration: 01/2021 – 12/2023

Publications: Landesgraduiertenstipendium des Landes Thüringen