From a Mongolian ‘super mine’ to China’s One Belt One Road, rapid infrastructural development is reforging Central Asia as an economic pivot of the future. Such development offers enticing economic benefits, but threatens fragile environments and local livelihoods. Due to the weakness of the state, the emphasis will be on citizens to hold developers accountable to their social and environmental pledges. Reports of political elites influencing the demands of popular protests call into question the ability of citizens to fulfil this function. This paper examines protest authenticity in Kyrgyzstan, focusing on an environmental social movement against Kumtor gold mine. We trace the emergence and evolution of the social movement, identifying the flexible discursive and scalar strategies it uses to achieve emphasis of the local level and relevance on the national scale. The discussion focuses on how national political saliency may incentivise elite involvement with social movements. This involvement can mask the local demands of the social movement, fixing the environmental problem as a national issue. It is crucial to understand the scalar dynamics of elite-protest interaction if Central Asian civil society is to hold future infrastructural developments to account.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited