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See detailRethinking agricultural cooperatives in Kyrgyzstan: towards a postcapitalist approach to cooperation in postsocialism (and beyond)
Cima, Ottavia UL

Doctoral thesis (2019)

In the last three decades, community-based approaches have gained large acclamation worldwide as a way to promote sustainable and inclusive development but also, in ex-socialist countries in Central and ... [more ▼]

In the last three decades, community-based approaches have gained large acclamation worldwide as a way to promote sustainable and inclusive development but also, in ex-socialist countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, as a way to support the postsocialist “transition” towards market economy. International donors have attempted to establish formal institutions for cooperation in local communities; among these, service cooperatives have promised a democratic and market-fit alternative to socialist collective farms. Kyrgyzstan’s liberalised economy after its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 has been a fertile ground for experiments with models of institutionalised cooperation – including agricultural cooperatives. However, today the dominant framing considers most cooperatives in the country as failed and explains this apparent failure with some forms of historically inherited negative attitude towards cooperation. This research aims to provide an alternative reading of agricultural cooperatives in Kyrgzystan in order to generate affects more positive than the feelings of failure and inadequacy produced by the dominant framing. I thus focus on the promotion of agricultural cooperatives in rural Kyrgyzstan by international actors and on how local communities reinterpret and renegotiate a formal institution for cooperation promoted by external actors. I thereby illustrate how international actors uphold a specific model of cooperatives – as a tool on a prescribed route towards a teleological fantasy of development – and how local actors incorporate, and thereby reframe, this model in their everyday practices. I do this through an ethnographic engagement with villagers in Pjak, in the North-East of the country, and in particular with the practices and representations that emerge in relation to a local cooperative, Ak-Bulut. My analysis represents an entry point for rethinking not only cooperatives but also well-established economic theories and models – not only in Kyrgyzstan or in other ex-socialist countries in CEE and the FSU, but globally. The focus on cooperative promotion, indeed, opens to a broader reflection on how communities and individuals locally rearticulate global processes of neoliberalisation and marketisation. I thus interrogate the ways in which hegemonic discourses on the economy, development and modernity produce particular kinds of subjectivities and affects and the consequences of this on material inequalities; simultaneously, I explore the room for individual agency – for resistance and contestation – that emerges from the discontinuities of these hegemonic discourses. As a way to reinforce and expand this agency, I propose a renewed approach – a postcapitalist, postfantasmatic and relational one – to cooperatives and cooperation in postsocialism that invites to assume an open, anti-essentialist stance to engage with communities in the here and now. This approach, I argue, is relevant (and indeed needed) also for other contexts globally, especially in the present context of rising nationalist and authoritarian forces. [less ▲]

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See detailExpanding spaces of participation: insights from an infrastructural project in rural Nepal
Cima, Ottavia UL

in Geographica Helvetica (2015), 70(4), 353-361

The spread of participatory development worldwide has multiplied opportunities for local population to engage in paid and unpaid development activities. However, scholars have pointed out that ... [more ▼]

The spread of participatory development worldwide has multiplied opportunities for local population to engage in paid and unpaid development activities. However, scholars have pointed out that participatory approaches bear the risk of strengthening unequal social structures, despite their emphasis on democratisation and inclusion. This paper investigates the case of a Swiss-funded infrastructural project in rural Nepal, analysing the role of participatory spaces in the dynamics of development resource capture. The empirical material collected suggests that, although participatory development has created more opportunities for social mobility, these opportunities are not necessarily open to everyone. In the case studied, the transformational potential of participation is only partially fulfilled. [less ▲]

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See detailAccountability at the Local Level in Fragile Contexts: Nepal Case Study
Cima, Ottavia UL

in IDS Working Paper (2013), 421

This paper presents the Nepal case study from a research project on accountability carried out in three countries. The research project aimed at identifying practices and factors contributing to the ... [more ▼]

This paper presents the Nepal case study from a research project on accountability carried out in three countries. The research project aimed at identifying practices and factors contributing to the success of accountability initiatives in fragile contexts. In the case of Nepal, the research focused on the relationship between the state and its citizens and on the accountability mechanisms operating on the supply side and demand side of that relationship. This relationship was observed in the framework of a trail bridge project implemented with a community approach and including the Public Audit Practice, an accountability tool developed in Nepal by Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation. This paper argues that the public meetings held in the framework of the Public Audit Practice, as well as the trail bridge user committee, represent participatory spaces that are created by the project organisation but whose boundaries and internal functioning are shaped by (in part pre-existing) power relations. Furthermore, the active engagement of villagers in these spaces can represent an opportunity for ‘empowerment’, mostly in the form of the building of a network of useful contacts within and outside the community. However, in a context of polarised power structures and discriminatory social and cultural traditions, the meaningful participation of traditionally disadvantaged groups is limited. The findings also suggest that, in this context, accountability, and in particular the information-sharing process, assumes rather informal forms. This has to be considered in the planning of interventions so that the positive potential can be exploited and the risk of exclusion inherent to informal practices can be reduced. Finally, the paper argues that it is the space of the user committee that represents an accountability tool, while the space of the Public Audit Practice is more a symbolic one that can be used to build trust in, and legitimacy of, the actors involved. [less ▲]

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