The Uzbek Opposition in Exile: Diaspora and Dissident Politics in the Digital Age

Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2012

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation examines how dissidents exiled from Uzbekistan use the internet to attempt to refute the legitimacy of the Uzbek government, reinterpret Uzbek culture, and resolve their internal conflicts. I argue that contrary to optimistic predictions of social media revolutions in Central Asia, the internet causes as many problems for Uzbek dissidents as it solves. In particular, I focus on how dissidents reconcile the possibilities the internet provides for collaboration with the dangers of deception, surveillance and slander. I argue that the same qualities that make the internet so liberating - the ability to join and leave a community at will; to write under multiple identities; to draw an immediate and uncensored reaction; to preserve and resurrect old arguments - make it perilous for groups, like the Uzbek opposition, that are already vulnerable to internal conflict.

The dissertation is structured around the life histories of five prominent Uzbek dissidents, each of which is used to illuminate broader themes such as morality, political organization, and literary politics in the digital age. Research was conducted between 2006 and 2010, a time of intense transformation in social media technology as well as Central Asian politics. The dissertation discusses the practical and ethical considerations of digital ethnography and argues that conventional notions of fieldwork need to be reassessed within the discipline. It also argues that communications scholarship could benefit from long-term ethnographic research and greater attention to the role of political culture.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

John Bowen

Committee Members

Robert Canfield, Geoff Childs, Robert Hegel, Fatemeh Keshavarz, James Wertsch


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K7PK0D3M

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