Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Projecting the Future: Novel Technologies of Spectacle in Astana, Kazakhstan

Fri31  Mar03:15pm(15 mins)
Melville Room


David Gogishvili1; Suzanne Harris-Brandts2
1 University of Lausanne, Switzerland;  2 Carleton University, Canada


This article examines how spectacular urban development performs as political device in Astana, Kazakhstan—and one increasingly reliant on new media technologies. The country’s ruling regime has used digital projections in public spaces as a form of state spectacle to communicate with its citizens while also promoting the country globally. Among messages displayed are those connected to peace, international security, environmental sustainability. We assess three key sites of new media display in the city: EXPO’s Nur Alem; The Peace Wall; and the Kazakhstan House of Ministries. These cases show how state spectacle is finding innovative channels to support the government’s modernization narratives and efforts toward integration within the global economy. Our findings draw from content analysis, field observations, and semi-structured interviews from 2019. We demonstrate how state spectacle is playing an important role in contemporary political and economic logics. We build on existing research showing utility of spectacular urban development to the Kazakh ruling elite, focusing on a growing reliance on architecturally tied digital technologies. As a result of these new connections between architecture, ideology and digital technology, we argue that the production of spectacle in Astana is becoming an even more popular political tactic while the state faces intrinsic contradictions by using energy-intensive tools to brand Astana as a sustainability-focused “City of the Future.”