'From truth in strength to strength in truth' : sociology, knowledge and power in Kyrgyzstan, 1966-2003
This dissertation is a critical sociology of sociology in Soviet and post-Soviet Central Asia. It explores the construction of sociology as a field of knowledge, academic discipline and professional practice in Kyrgyzstan (formerly the Kirgiz Soviet Socialist Republic) from 1966 to 2003, focusing on the late and post-socialist project to transform sociology from a heteronomous to autonomous field of knowledge and practice. It draws especially on the sociology of knowledge and science to explore the localised processes through which social scientific knowledge and political power have been co-constituted on the imperial periphery. Through a comparative case study of sociology in Kyrgyzstani universities, as well as smaller case studies of 'public science' in the national press, it reveals how sociologists have negotiated a fundamental tension in the institutionalisation project - the separation of the production of sociological knowledge from the logic of political power, on the one hand, and their simultaneous association, on the other - to establish both scientific legitimacy and social relevance for sociology in the republic. The types of sociology that emerge from this negotiation - the positivist, applied-professional model and the post-positivist liberal-critical model - are interpreted not as inevitable consequences of the Soviet collapse, but rather the product of decisions made by sociologists within particular intellectual and structural constraints and through the lens of partial bodies of theoretical knowledge. The ascendance of positivist and empiricist sociology in the post-Soviet period is explained as a deliberate, if often extremely uncritical, attempt to reorganise the relationship between power and knowledge in Kyrgyzstani society and to democratise the latter. Finally, the dissertation demonstrates that academic debates about the possibility of scientific truth assume deep personal and political significance when conducted in the context of pronounced social fragmentation and inequality, specifically, in the contexts of authoritarianism and neocolonialism.