Learning in, about and from the field? Symbolic functions of EU knowledge production on Central Asia
Examining the European Union's (EU) engagement with Central Asia since the early 1990s, we see an increased commitment to context sensitivity. Arguably, in order to design ‘better’ interventions, the EU needs to know more about this region. This article explores three means of EU learning: in the field – through EU officials’ first-hand experience of working at EU Delegations in Central Asia; about the field – through programmed channels of external expert knowledge, and in particular think tanks; and from the field – during institutionalised consultations with multiple local actors, such as academics, journalists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It is argued that despite this complex learning infrastructure, EU knowledge production on Central Asia has a predominantly performative character. Rather than leading to changes in its relations with Central Asia, new knowledge produced by the EU aims at legitimising this organisation’s pre-existing frameworks of engagement and practices of interactions with the region, and substantiating existing policy priorities.