Ruins of hope in a Kyrgyz post-industrial wasteland (Respond to this article at


  • Mathijs Pelkmans

    1. Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics. He has recently published an edited volume titled Ethnographies of doubt: Faith and uncertainty in contemporary societies (2013).
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When people find themselves in dire situations, they use their imagination to transcend space and time. Forward-projected hope and backward-looking nostalgia are usually juxtaposed for their different temporal orientations and their different roles in social action. This article examines how this plays out in a former mining town in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, whose inhabitants treasure the memories of Soviet modernity while dreaming of a future of economic abundance. Here, the sentiments of nostalgia and hope converge in their resonance with the ruins of empire, while their effects depend upon concealing the fragility of utopian visions.