Institute for Policy and Social Change (IPS)


Our interdisciplinary research focuses on state and society relations at large. We focus on understanding the breaking and making of states, the creation of norms and organizing of power in spaces where different stories and histories merge – including, but not limited to, Central Asia. If the state represents the historical institutionalization of social conflicts and power, we now live in an ideal time to witness and understand what conflicts, whose power and through which practices states are forged.

We aspire to capture the moment of change and crisis in order to understand which historical patterns, external factors, and local peculiarities have the greatest impact on the direction of social change and state-building, under what conditions and why.

Furthermore, we aim to examine to what extent and through which processes different sets of actors have an impact om social change. Our sets of actors will include political elites, business elites and grassroots informal elites. Our research will map processes of their formation and intermingling, as well as their cognitive maps in terms of state transformation, societal development and corporate social responsibility.

The very nature and existence of institutions calls for the examination of businesses (large and small) and their activities that have consistently attracted unparalleled attention in this knowledge-based economic and political setting.

Our research is not limited to Central Asian region, but involves cross-country and cross-regional comparisons of patterns, factors and processes influencing states, societies and economies. Furthermore, we will focus on how transnational trade and low of capital influences formation of the informal business and political elites at the grassroots.


Our main goal is to carry out cutting edge research on the transformation of state – society relations in Central Asia and beyond, with focus on three core dimensions: external, local and historical processes. We contribute to closing the gap in the conventional research on state-society relations by connecting grassroots processes with transnational processes, tracing how state and society relations are shaped both from within and from without. Aiming at theory development, we collect and make sense of data on fundamental issues, such as water and land, micro-finance and community-based economic practices, cross-border trade and transnational religious movements, marginalization and criminalization of populations, perceptions of foreign actors and social consequences of international aid and investments. Finally, we focus on what role (social ) entrepreneurship influences elite formation, development, and the balance of power locally, regionally, and globally.

While acknowledging that the divide between the formal and informal dimensions of state-society relations matters, we claim that it is the areas of their intermingling that are more difficult to tackle. By focusing on patterns and processes of intermingling of the formal and informal governance, organized and non-organized civil society, shadow and official economy, legal or marginal social activities we will collect data which can speak for people’s everyday experiences of institutional power and provide for better understanding of the changing state of the state in Central Asia and beyond.

Finally, we focus on how the relations between state institutions, businesses, and grassroots society are narrated in order to understand how the story is told and why it may or may not work and under which conditions.


We provide advanced methodological training in policy ethnography, narrative analysis and process geography. Our training modules include, but are not limited to:

  • — Research design for qualitative field research
  • — Data collection: focus groups, interviews, participant observation
  • — Training in narrative, content and discourse analysis
  • — Training in study of perceptions
  • — Training in logistics, culture and ethics of field research in Central Asian region

Furthermore, we welcome visiting scholars and are at their disposal to facilitate their collaboration with local stakeholders, as well as develop international cooperation between regional and international research institutes.


Fall Semester 2017
  • ❖ Creating the Institute’s website as a publishing, discussion and inspiration platform for students and faculty
  • ❖ Building and training a team of field researchers (students)
  • ❖ Grant applications
  • ❖ Initiate academic articles to be published in peer-reviewed journals
  • ❖ Methodological series: a set of seminars (t.b.a.)
  • ❖ Guest Lecture Series
spring SEMESTER 2018
  • ❖ Guest Lecture Series
  • ❖ International Conference on State-building, Business and Social Change
  • ❖ Preparing a Special Issue based on the results of the conference
  • ❖ Field trips to rural universities with seminars and methodological training (universities to be identified upon mutual consent)
  • ❖ Methodological series: a set of seminars (t.b.a)

Publications, Presentations, Working Papers

  • — Viktoria Akchurina, 2018 “Sources of Social Power: Elite Capacity in the Fergana Valley” In: Piotr Dutkiewicz and Richard Sakwa (Eds.). Eurasia on the Edge: Managing Complexity. Valdai Discussion Club

  • — Viktoria Akchurina, 2018 “Incomplete State: Re-conceptualizing State and Society Relations in Central Asia.” In: Rico Isaacs and Alessandro Frigerio (Eds.). Political Theory and Central Asia. Palgrave Macmillan

  • — Viktoria Akchurina and Abel Polese, 2018 “Kyrgyzstan and Intermingling Elites: From the State of Enlightenment to the Shadow State.” In: Francesc Serra and Ferran Izquierdo (Eds.). Political Regimes in Central Asia: Sociology of Power in Today’s Central Asia. Routledge. Co-authored with Abel Polese

  • — Viktoria Akchurina and Vincent Della Sala, 2018 “Russia, Europe and the Ontological Security Dilemma: Narrating the Emerging Eurasia Space,” In Special Issue of theJournal of Europe-Asia Studies on “Power and Competing Regionalism in a Wider Europe: Shared Neighbourhood, Battleground or Transit on the New Silk Road”, co-authored with Vincent Della Sala

  • — Jayarethanam Pillai and Kamila Kolpashnikova, October 25, 2017, “Gender diversity: what can we learn from Kyrgyzstan?”, Conference Paper at Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University, by Dr. Jayarethanam Pillai, and Dr. Kamila Kolpashnikova

Scientific Committee

Dr. Piotr Dutkiewicz, Professor of Political Science, Director, Centre for Governance and Public Policy, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

Dr. Vincent Della Sala, Adjunct Professor of European and Eurasian Studies, Associate Professor at the School of International Studies and Faculty of Sociology of the University of Trento, Bologna, Italy; Coordinator of Jean Monnet Center, University of Trento, Bologna, Italy

Dr. Richard Burchill, Director of Research and Engagement at TRENDS Research & Advisory, Abu Dhabi, UAE


Research Coordinators

Cluster 1: State-building and social change

Dr. Viktoria Akchurina, Assistant Professor, General Education Department, AUCA, Kyrgyzstan

Cluster 2: Political economy and corporate social responsibility

Dr. Jayarethanam Pillai, Dean, School of Entrepreneurship and Business Administration, AUCA, Kyrgyzstan

cluster 3: Social entrepreneurship

Dr. Jayarethanam Pillai, Dean, School of Entrepreneurship and Business Administration, AUCA, Kyrgyzstan

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