Informal civil society initiatives in non-Western societies: mahallas in Uzbekistan

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Despite the extensive literature on the nexus between civil society and democratization in non-democratic regimes, most existing scholarship focuses on politically oriented and claim-making civil society organizations. While these accounts provide useful insights, they appear to rely on Western-centric understandings of civil society. Undoubtedly, little space exists in non-democratic regimes within which civil society organizations may engage in overt political activism due to governmental restrictions. Notwithstanding these restrictions, there are politically less threatening social arenas, where it is possible to identify informally organized civil society initiatives with the potential to redefine and influence long-term state–society relations. This article argues that what we might think of as civil society initiatives in non-democratic regimes cannot be satisfactorily understood through the lens of Western-centric understandings of civil society. Instead, we should focus on informal civil society initiatives. These processes will be illustrated through the case study of mahalla institutions in Uzbekistan.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-497
Number of pages21
JournalCentral Asian Survey
Issue number3
Early online date2022 Apr 21
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Law and Society
  • Globalization Studies
  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

Free keywords

  • Central Asia
  • law and social change
  • Legal pluralism
  • Uzbekistan


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