Post-Soviet, post-conflict Tajikistan is an under-studied and poorly understood case in conflict studies literature. Since 2000, this Central Asian state has seen major political violence end, countrywide order emerge and the peace agreement between the parties of the 1990s civil war hold. Superficially, Tajikistan appears to be a case of successful international intervention for liberal peacebuilding, yet the Tajik peace is characterised by authoritarian governance. Via discourse analysis and extensive fieldwork, including participant-observation with international organizations, the author examines how peacebuilding is understood and practised. The book challenges received wisdom that peacebuilding is a process of democratisation or institutionalisation, showing how interventions have inadvertently served to facilitate an increasingly authoritarian peace and fostered popular accommodation and avoidance strategies. Chapters investigate assistance to political parties and elections, the security sector and community development, and illustrate how transformative aims are thwarted whilst ‘success’ is simulated for an audience of international donors. At the same time the book charts the emergence of a legitimate order with properties of authority, sovereignty and livelihoods.
Peacebuilding is a contested concept which gains meaning as it is practised. While academic and policy-relevant elaboration of the concept is of interest to international experts, interpretations of peacebuilding in the Central Asian arena may depart immensely from those envisaged within the western-dominated ‘international community’. This article opens up the dimensions and contingent possibilities of “peacebuilding” through an investigation of two alternative approaches found in the context of Tajikistan. It makes the critique that peacebuilding represents one contextually grounded basic discourse. In the case of Central Asia, and in particular post-conflict Tajikistan, at least two other basic discourses have been adopted by parties to the post-Soviet setting: elite “mirostroitelstvo” (Russian: peacebuilding) and popular ‘tinji’ (Tajik: wellness/peacefulness). Based largely on fieldwork conducted in Tajikistan between 2003 and 2005, the argument here is that none of these three discourses is merely an artificial or cynical construct but that each has a certain symbolic and normative value. Consequently, a singular definition of Tajik ‘peacebuilding’ proves elusive as practices adapt to the relationships between multiple discourses and identities in context. The article concludes that ‘peacebuilding’ is a complex and intersubjective process of change entailing the legitimation of new relationships of power.