Central Asia: “Cyber Chaikhana,” Book Written by Bloggers

“Cyber Chaikhana” is a book project about Central Asian bloggers and their perceptions of their region, culture and everyday life. Edited by Christopher Schwartz and published by HIVOS, the book is a collection of narratives written by the bloggers at NewEurasia.net, the Central Asian blogging network.

The aim of the project is to reach out to both the Central Asian (Russian speaking) and global audiences; both Russian and English language versions of the book will be published.

The name of the book, chaikhana, means “a teahouse.” Christopher Schwartz explains the philosophy of the title and the book:

Cyber Chaikhana, at Bar Camp Central Asia, photo by Alexey Sidorenko

Cyber Chaikhana, at Bar Camp Central Asia, photo by Alexey Sidorenko

As you all know from experience, the teahouse is a centre of community life in Central Asia. In the teahouse, all subjects, from politics to religion to backgammon strategy to the fashion sense of a local politician, are energetically discussed over cups of hot sugar tea.In NewEurasia’s “cyber chaihkana” our webloggers come together over keyboards rather than tea, but the results are greater in scale: whereas the traditional chaikhana is local, the Internet is a teahouse encompassing the region.

The Russian version of Cyber Chaikhana was presented at the BarCamp Central Asia 2011, an Almaty-based IT event. In a short interview with Global Voices, Christopher Schwartz explains why bloggers’ voices are important in discovering the region, and how online speech can combat orientalism:

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