New publication on political activism, gender and tradition in Kyrgyzstan

As part of an upcoming special issue on “Practices of traditionalization in Central Asia”, which I have co-edited with Peter Finke from the Anthropology Department at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, I have written an article with my colleague from Kyrygzstan, Aijarkyn Kojobekova, on the interlinking of gender, tradition and political activism in the case of two very unusual kinds of activists: We expose the various motivations and tactics pursued by aksakals (lit., whitebeards) and by a movement of mature women called OBON (lit., Women Units for Special Purposes) as they participate in politics, and the role tradition plays in these activities.

We argue that aksakals actively draw on tradition even in the political realm to avoid being derogatorily labelled ‘elders on duty’, whereas OBON women position themselves as economic and political actors but are subjected to discourses and practices of tradition by others. While both aksakals and OBON women have been central to political action in Kyrgyzstan in the last two decades, this article is the first to compare and contrast these two categories of unusual activists. The comparison reveals a perpetuation of culturally recognized gender roles even when these actors go beyond their ‘traditional’ realms of competence.

You can access the full article online here (behind a paywall; contact me for a personal copy).

The printed special issue will come out in September 2019 with articles by Tommaso Trevisani, Juliette Cleuziou, Dominik Müller, Jarmila Ptackova and Diana Kudaibergenova.

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