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Law, space and the city: a legal geography of urban change in post-socialist Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan


Hatcher, Craig. Law, space and the city: a legal geography of urban change in post-socialist Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. 2015, University of Zurich, Faculty of Science.

Abstract

This thesis examines the role of law and legal practices in transformations of urban space in post-socialist Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan. In doing so, the thesis contributes to the ‘interdisciplinary project’ of legal geography and expands on debates examining the relation between law and the city.
The thesis aims to fill several lacunae in legal geography and studies on law and the city. First, the thesis responds to a bias in knowledge production within legal geography through its focus on cities in the global North. Examining law and legal processes in Bishkek expands on the meaning of ‘law’ beyond Western liberal formulations by addressing the plurality and overlap of multiple legal spaces. Second, by drawing on legal processes unfolding in the post-socialist city, the over-emphasis on space in legal geography, to the detriment of time, is explored to examine how different time periods and time frames – the transition from ‘socialist’ to ‘post-socialist’ as well as the gradual shift from ‘illegal’ to ‘legal’ – feature in the everyday ‘making’ of the law. An appreciation of time in legal geography, responds to the processes and mobilities of law and space, countering fixed and static interpretations. Third, an emphasis on law and legal processes responds to a gap in urban theory where analyses of the ‘legal’ are often buried within economic and political questions. The thesis aims to show the importance of analysing the ‘legal’ as its own object of study in understanding transformations of urban space.
The role of law and legal practices in urban transformations is examined in relation to the case study city of Bishkek. Two connected entry-points are used to explore the relationship between law and urban transformations. The first examines the regulation of rural-urban migration in relation to shifting meanings of property while the second, investigates the legalisation process of a ‘squatter’ settlement on the urban periphery. Meanings and enactments of law and space are therefore investigated through the legal- spatial themes of internal migration, property rights, and illegality. This involves examining the persistence and continuity of legal spaces, despite official changes to legislation, as well as destabilising meanings of ‘illegality’ by examining the agency of both state and non- state actors and material and non-material components in law making processes.
The thesis draws on a ‘mixed method’ technique by combining legal doctrinal analysis with ethnography. The thesis therefore relies on two distinct epistemological traditions in formulating a research narrative. Doctrinal analysis responds to a positivist notion of searching for the ‘truth’ internally within the body of law, while the ethnographic methods employed emphasise the partiality of scientific knowledge production. In formulating an understanding of the law and legal processes that relate to the empirical themes of this research, analysis of Kyrgyz and international law were combined with seven months of ethnographic fieldwork in Bishkek. The ethnographic research was largely based on semi-structured interviews and ‘shadowing’ applicants through various legal and administrative procedures.
The thesis argues that studies on legal space require an appreciation of temporality and process. Legal spaces such as the ‘squatter’ settlement on the urban periphery, or the ‘city’ more broadly, are performed and produced over time. An emphasis on temporality demonstrates how processes are sometimes disconnected from official changes in legislation and are, instead, embedded within historical trajectories. From a policy-based perspective, the enactment of legislation is not, on its own, a solution to urban problems. This reductionist perspective of law and urban space bolsters notions that both are detached from historical, economic and political processes rather than recognising their constitutive, produced, and fragmentary nature.

This thesis examines the role of law and legal practices in transformations of urban space in post-socialist Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan. In doing so, the thesis contributes to the ‘interdisciplinary project’ of legal geography and expands on debates examining the relation between law and the city.
The thesis aims to fill several lacunae in legal geography and studies on law and the city. First, the thesis responds to a bias in knowledge production within legal geography through its focus on cities in the global North. Examining law and legal processes in Bishkek expands on the meaning of ‘law’ beyond Western liberal formulations by addressing the plurality and overlap of multiple legal spaces. Second, by drawing on legal processes unfolding in the post-socialist city, the over-emphasis on space in legal geography, to the detriment of time, is explored to examine how different time periods and time frames – the transition from ‘socialist’ to ‘post-socialist’ as well as the gradual shift from ‘illegal’ to ‘legal’ – feature in the everyday ‘making’ of the law. An appreciation of time in legal geography, responds to the processes and mobilities of law and space, countering fixed and static interpretations. Third, an emphasis on law and legal processes responds to a gap in urban theory where analyses of the ‘legal’ are often buried within economic and political questions. The thesis aims to show the importance of analysing the ‘legal’ as its own object of study in understanding transformations of urban space.
The role of law and legal practices in urban transformations is examined in relation to the case study city of Bishkek. Two connected entry-points are used to explore the relationship between law and urban transformations. The first examines the regulation of rural-urban migration in relation to shifting meanings of property while the second, investigates the legalisation process of a ‘squatter’ settlement on the urban periphery. Meanings and enactments of law and space are therefore investigated through the legal- spatial themes of internal migration, property rights, and illegality. This involves examining the persistence and continuity of legal spaces, despite official changes to legislation, as well as destabilising meanings of ‘illegality’ by examining the agency of both state and non- state actors and material and non-material components in law making processes.
The thesis draws on a ‘mixed method’ technique by combining legal doctrinal analysis with ethnography. The thesis therefore relies on two distinct epistemological traditions in formulating a research narrative. Doctrinal analysis responds to a positivist notion of searching for the ‘truth’ internally within the body of law, while the ethnographic methods employed emphasise the partiality of scientific knowledge production. In formulating an understanding of the law and legal processes that relate to the empirical themes of this research, analysis of Kyrgyz and international law were combined with seven months of ethnographic fieldwork in Bishkek. The ethnographic research was largely based on semi-structured interviews and ‘shadowing’ applicants through various legal and administrative procedures.
The thesis argues that studies on legal space require an appreciation of temporality and process. Legal spaces such as the ‘squatter’ settlement on the urban periphery, or the ‘city’ more broadly, are performed and produced over time. An emphasis on temporality demonstrates how processes are sometimes disconnected from official changes in legislation and are, instead, embedded within historical trajectories. From a policy-based perspective, the enactment of legislation is not, on its own, a solution to urban problems. This reductionist perspective of law and urban space bolsters notions that both are detached from historical, economic and political processes rather than recognising their constitutive, produced, and fragmentary nature.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Dissertation
Referees:Müller-Böker Ulrike, Thieme Susan, Kaufmann Christine, Gandy Matthew
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:28 Jan 2016 13:39
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 20:01
Number of Pages:224
Free access at:Official URL. An embargo period may apply.
Official URL:http://opac.nebis.ch/ediss/20152477.pdf
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-120901

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