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America’s Symbolic Influence in the Central Asian Region despite Anti-American Agendas

“US power can inadvertently shift politics even in regions like Central Asia where the United States is remote.”

Imagine symbols as resources. Now consider the United States a symbol quarried by social movements in Central Asia for different reasons and to other ends. It’s this line of thought that Edward Schatz, an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto, follows in his new book “Slow Anti-Americanism: Social Movements and Symbolic Politics in Central Asia.” The United States — “symbolic America” — is a resource mined by various social movements in Central Asia. From Islamists to human rights activists to labor movements, symbolic America has had its uses in distant Central Asia. Schatz argues that anti-Americanism isn’t always a rising tide, though it is often depicted as such. Reality is much more complicated than that. In the following interview, Schatz discusses the power of symbols, how Central Asian social movements have used the United States in framing their efforts, and more with The Diplomat’s managing editor, Catherine Putz. You note in the introduction to the book that because the US as an actor has, for much of the Central Asian region’s history, largely been absent, it’s a good region to study the US’s power as a symbol

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