Central Asia

Seeing, hearing and feeling the city

Visualizing Memory is an ongoing, sensory anthropological project initiated by Lilit Dabagian, a Bishkek-based media researcher and curator, and David Leupold, a Berlin-based researcher in memory studies. Drawing from art and anthropology alike, it seeks to explore and visualize the multi-layered landscape of urban memory.

Sensory anthropology emphasizes the importance of senses for anthropological observations and is preoccupied with finding novel and unusual ways for communicating these observations. …

Four Temporal Snapshots from Central Asia


Across snow-covered mountains on the Naryn — Bishkek highway

As we are cutting through the snow-covered mountains of the Naryn Oblast in in mid-March with a rusty silver Japanese car, a Kyrgyz love ballad is followed by “Po Restoranam” and “Cherniy Bumer”, playing on FM 88.2. …

The Politics of Contesting Armenian, Turkish and Kurdish Memory

Book interview with media researcher Lilit Dabagian

The year 2015 in April. Dislocated and marginalized lies what had been the Old City of Van, as a sea of debris at the feet of the castle in the abandoned outskirts of the New City. With the exception of Muslim sites of worship such as the Ulu Cami and Kizil Minareli Cami, the old center of the city formerly known as Şahestan has been left to decay and dissolve in the self-oblivious web of time. The city, which had been at the nexus…

David Leupold

“All photographs are of the past, yet in them, an instant of the past is arrested so that, unlike a lived past, it can never lead to the present.” (p. 86)

For me this introductory remark by Berger in his work Another Way of Telling (1995) was particularly mind-provoking as his idea of “the shock of discontinuity” seemed to contradict with another visual metaphor on memory that had left a profound impact on my understanding of memory years ago. …

Statue of a mourning soldier at the Soviet WWII Memorial in Treptower Park, Berlin

Shortly before his suicide in the wake of Nazi persecution, Walter Benjamin formulates in the wake of war-time ordeals his theses on the notion of history: “Über den Begriff der Geschichte” (1942), which literally translates as “On the Notion of History”. Offering less a conventional piece of transitional justice literature, that is literature on how to right past wrongs, Benjamin takes a step aback and raises a fundamental critique: what if the history as we know is in itself a manifestation of the injustices that characterize our world? As a gifted writer he employs different powerful images to illustrate his…

Soviet mozaic down the former Prospekt Mira, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

While the past is not conceivable through remembering in its entity (Apperley 2018; Aylesworth 2015) events are selectively chosen and plotted in line with overriding motifs — from ‘romantic plots’ such as the national quest for self-determination or the emancipation of the international workers’ class to ‘tragic plots’ such as the persistence of colonial rule or the decline of a civilization. Historical narratives can be informed by a variety of different motifs that embed a set of otherwise ambivalent and polyvocal historical experiences in a meaning-constitutive grand-scale plot. Drawing from such ‘grand-scale plots’ a selective and ideologically-charged interpretation of the…

Stamp at the back of a Rosenthal plate manufactured for the Nazi propaganda organization ‘Beauty of Labour’ (Schönheit der Arbeit)

Known across Germany as the Porzellanstadt („city of porcelain“), the 17,000 inhabitants of the small Northern Bavarian town Selb take great pride in the town’s history in porcelain manufacturing. In spite of an ongoing structural crisis that hit the sector hard in the 1990s, Selb-based manufacturers continue to supply international customers from high-class hotels in Dubai and international airlines to the Café Sacher in Vienna and the Moscow Kremlin (Späth, 2004).[1]

Germania statue at the Niederwalddenkmal, source: wikipedia

Rarely in the recent past did a music video spark more controversy and elicit heatier debates than the recent song Deutschland by Rammstein. However as I browsed through a myriad of interpretations offered both on social platforms and print media I was appalled to see that most, if not, almost all seemed to miss the one crucial point: the song is not a love song devoted to Germany — this song is a declaration of war.

Many commentators in Germany and abroad, drawing from a flawed reading of the chorus line “I want to love you and condemn you” („Will…

Multi-lingual Ottoman calendar (1905); source: pinterest

Just a brief glance back in history suffices to understand that the coexistence of different linguistic groups under the emergence of bi- and multilingualism as a mass phenomenon was far more wide-spread than mono-lingual and mono-cultural forms of settlement.[i] However, as the latter emerged as the role model for the naturalization of the triumvirate of (one) state, (one) nation and (one) language in the aftermath of the French revolution, the discussion on multilingualism so far has been mainly structured as that of an exceptional case at the “blurred” boundaries of a monolingual world. …

Greek ghost village Karmilassos cleared during the Turkish-Greek population exchange

The social structures of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey could hardly be more different. On the one hand — the Ottoman Empire as a multi-ethnic state composed of various religious elements. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Armenian, Greek and Jewish communities still accounted for almost 20 percent of the total population. On the other hand, there is Turkey of today — a nation state in which over 97 percent of all citizens are registered as Muslims and whose only official language is Turkish. How is this radical incision in the demographic landscape of Anatolia…

David Leupold

Turkey | Southern Caucasus | Central Asia | Iran and Afghanistan — Postdoctoral Researcher

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