Taking the discourse seriously: Rational self-interest and resistance to mining in Kyrgyzstan

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Beril Ocaklı - , Humboldt University of Berlin (Author)
  • Tobias Krueger - , Humboldt University of Berlin (Author)
  • Marco A. Janssen - , Arizona State University (Author)
  • Ulan Kasymov - , Chair of Ecosystem Services (Author)


Faced with mounting resistance against mining, neoliberal governance resorts to polarising strategies that delegitimise the heterogenous positions people hold regarding mining. In this paper, we contrast and complicate these dichotomies with the lived experiences on the ground in Kyrgyzstan. We focus on the ‘Taldy-Bulak Levoberezhny’ gold mine near the town of Orlovka that has been lauded by the state and business community as a paragon of company-community ‘cooperation’. We question how the gold mine has come to be an exemplary case of cooperation in a conflict-rife sector. Based on behavioural experiments, surveys, and in-depth inquiry, we follow and unpack entanglements of valuations, discourses and practices that have repackaged Orlovka from a former Soviet mining town in depression into a putative model of progress. Our interdisciplinary account unravels the contradictory processes of re/making extractive frontiers and managing resistance to extractivist expansion that interweave neoliberal practices with nationalist discourses. Beneath the discourses praising Orlovka, we find a community that has never stopped resisting despite consenting to the gold mine. The extractive entanglements we unearth exemplify the diversity of exigencies and aspirations behind resisting, negotiating and/or allowing mining while attesting to the diversified portfolio of tactics that silence and delegitimise these life concerns.


Original languageEnglish
Article number107177
JournalEcological economics
Issue number189
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

External IDs

ORCID /0000-0001-5620-1379/work/142236417


Sustainable Development Goals


  • Central Asia, Gold mining, Neoliberal extractivism, Orlovka, Resistance, Socio-ecological justice

Library keywords