DIALOGUE UNIT 10: Regimes of Taste: the Rise of China, Architecture and Aesthetics of Development in Central Asia
With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the project of building up the new man disappeared. Thus, the criteria of development also changed. First of all, the evolutionist aim was not the background of any project of development. Second, even though such evolutionist ideas continued to permeate in the everyday interaction among people, the logic is more about the adaptation to the new economic situation and taking advantage of the resources with the goal of obtaining economic surplus. The implementation of neoliberal policies, the dystopia of Communism, became the new utopia. Together with the new utopia, new values came to the former Soviet Union. The term evroremont began to be widely used over the last two decades. The meaning of this word is somewhat problematic. As a prefix, evro- is a reference to Europe. Remont in turn has the meaning of reparation. Evroremont means in this manner a reparation based on European standards. The word is usually used in contexts of new building or reparation of older houses. Doing evroremont to a house implies buying building materials, such as windows and doors, as well as furniture that come from Europe. Evroremont is not only, however, a question of buildings, it is instead a commitment to a novel model of development and also a different way of embodying the modern.
In Central Asia, evroremont has a slight nuance that in all probability also applies to the European former Soviet countries. This nuance is the fact that, even though evro-materials follow a particular style and taste, they do not come from Europe, but from China. This nuance brings us to the discussion of the materiality and authenticity of development and its representation. Indeed, if one has a look at large bazaars in Central Asia, such as the ones in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, the kind of goods that are sold every day are not only the evro ones, but also the kitai ones, kitai meaning “Chinese”.
Hence, he main aim of this Dialogue Unit is to explore the scope of kitairemont in contemporary Kazakhstan. We can study kitairemont from two perspectives, one is the ont“from above”: that means paying careful attention to the Kazakhstani and Chinese understandings of what in the last decade has been called “the New Silk Road”, a project whose main goal is facilitating transportation of goods between China and Europe along motorways and train lines built in Kazakhstan. From this perspective, one can argue that kitairemont is deeply changing the entire shape of Kazakhstan and transforming both the landscape and ideologies on development. The second perspective is “from below”, that is how people incorporate the evro aesthetics of development which have been transformed and come, not from Europe any longer but from China.
Svetlana Jacquesson, Ph.D.
PhDr. Tereza Hejzlarová, Ph.D.
PhDr. Daniel Dědovský, Ph.D.