The cultures and properties of decaying buildings

in Focaal
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This article focuses on controversial plans by the government to rebuild Aisha Bibi, a small, crumbling mausoleum in southeastern Kazakhstan, and thereby hitch its symbolic potency to the nationalist drive. There has never been one commonly accepted account of the building in terms of when and by whom it was created. Nonetheless, it has long been a site of pilgrimage for many different groups and, since the Soviet period, a source of scientific interest. Plans to construct a replica building have brought the multitude of previously co-existing narratives into sharp relief as the new version threatens to oust the others, effectively making one narrative claim exclude others. Further, as is the nature of all representations, the replica will halt and contain the unboundedness and perishability of the mausoleum which, for many local narratives, is an essential part of Aisha Bibi.