Astana on My Mind

Boris Brorman Jensen

I sometimes get these horrible flashbacks of Sacha Baron Cohen’s completely obnoxious Borat Sagdiyev.

I don’t know exactly what’s triggering this: Borat’s absolute indifference to any political correctness, his ability to overrule any given bias, or his horrible talent for scandalizing with the sacred idea of cultural relativism. I’m not really sure.


There is definitely something in his “Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” that keeps troubling my mind. And this is certainly not the ironic self-fulfilling prophecy of the ‘make benefit’ movie! As a matter of fact, it came tome as no surprise to see the tourist minister of Kazakhstan praising Borat for boosting the number of tourists going to Kazakhstan with a 13% increase.

But no, I don’t envy fiction’s ability to change reality-even if for the better. Maybe the most provocative ‘learning’ from Cohen’s movie is the fact that the times are over when you could go so far away, to places so different, that all your inherited conventions were automatically suspended. Secondly, I’m still struggling with the question if we really need someone with absolutely no moral habitus like Borat to reveal the hidden reservoirs of prejudice and intolerance within our own culture. Maybe indifference to any rule of conduct just provokes more indifference?


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[1] BBC News (accessed 06/08/08).
[2] Ibid.
[3] Yerzhan N. Ashykbayev in The New York Times.
[4] See Ambassade du Kazakhstan en France/article view/ 1083 (accessed 06/08/08).
[5] See Tsubokura Takashi's disposition.
[6] Op. cit.
[7] See Ambassade du Kazakhstan en France/article view/ 1083.
[8] See
[9] Kisho Kurokawa: Metabolism +Recent work: Catalogue to an exhibition at Cube Gallery, London 2001 as a part ol Japan 2001 Festival, Kurokawa, Kisho.
[10] See