Visualizing the Languages of Nature, Society, Power, and Politics in Contemporary Kazakhstan
As visual images act linguistically, communicating messages and meanings, we can consider, then, visualized languages. The Republic of Kazakhstan has a history of such languages, from ancient petroglyph rock carvings to pre-independence Soviet propaganda. Emanating from within this context, this chapter seeks to explore the use of state-sanctioned visual imagery today in Kazakhstan portraying elements of human-environment interrelationships or the nature-society nexus. The images presented here promote and project (targeting primarily a “local” audience) language subtexts of political power, economic development, and state “success.” Recognizing both the “social construction of the visual” and the “visual construction of the social,” a milieu of elements from visual methodology and visual analysis literature will be invoked to frame an interpretive analysis of visual imagery used in three case studies from across Kazakhstan today. Visual images from the Northern Aral Sea, incorporating the snow leopard, and found in an Almaty Metro station are presented here. These images offer distinct narratives chronicling, respectively, a modern version of the Soviet-era transformation of nature, an endangered species symbolizing political and economic development, and the importance of conserving the spatial and genetic source of the world’s apples. Common themes across these narratives are also developed, including the “guiding hand” of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, a “Soviet redux” in interactions with the biophysical environment, and a prevailing “economy-environment trade-off” where economic concerns take precedence.
KeywordsKazakhstan Aral Sea Snow leopard Apple Visual landscape
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