Category Archives: Central Asia

Shari’a, tradition and the state in Kyrgyzstan. Competing repertoires of order: the case of mortuary rituals

This will be my second lecture while I am in Paris, this time as part of the “Séminaire Transformations de la Normativité Islamique” organized by Professors Baudouin Dupret, Nathalie Bernard-Maugiron, Jean Philippe-Bras, and Marième N’Diaye

Jeudi 8 mars de 10h à 13h, en salle de réunion de l’IISMM (96 boulevard Raspail, 1er étage)

Abstract:

In Central Asian Kyrgyzstan, shari’a and tradition are best understood as two interrelated répertoires of order. Historically, they have developed alongside each other and the population has learned to reclassify social practices or local institutions that might be regarded as unlawful or illegal by Islamic clergy on the one hand or the state on the other by reinterpreting them ‘according to custom’. I refer to this process as ‘customization’.

In this lecture, I will use the example of elaborate gift-exchange practices during mortuary rituals in order to show how imams, state officials and the local population try to grapple with the disputed social practice of giving large carpets during funerals and mortuary rituals that is considered against shari’a and also contradicting new state regulations. Nevertheless, gift exchange continues and has even intensified in the last decade.

This lecture investigates emic local understandings of shari’a and tradition and positions these in the context of a changing social and economic environment where formerly Russian and Soviet state practices aimed at curbing ‘irrational’ local behaviour and where nowadays remittances from Central Asian labour migrants fuel the local ritual economy.

Workshop: The Future of Central Asian Studies

co-organized by Judith Beyer (Konstanz) and Madeleine Reeves (Manchester).

The last three years have seen a flourishing of anthropological and historical monographs on Central Asia. We propose an innovative workshop format that seeks to launch several of these recent monographs and to use a discussion of their findings as a basis for reflection on the future of Central Asian studies. The workshop will facilitate a series of focused discussions that emerge from bringing the texts into conversation with one another.

How can material from Central Asia inform conceptual debates about order, knowledge, modernity, empire, religion and resources in the widest sense? What can be gained from drawing together anthropological and historical scholarship on law and empire, or dynamics of peace and conflict? How can we better integrate the history and anthropology of Afghanistan to allow comparison with the rest of Central Asia? The book panel discussions will be videotaped and edited versions of these discussions will be made available to an international audience.

For a full programme see here.

 

 

Harmony ideology. On ethnographic research in Kyrgyzstan and Ethiopia

Here is the full pdf-version to an article I co-authored in 2015 together with Felix Girke in Common Knowledge as part of a special issue on “Peace by other means.”

In the article we engage with Laura Nader’s famous concept of “harmony ideology” from a practice-oriented perspective by taking ethnographic material from Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kyrgyzstan.

To everyone working on the concept of yntymak in the Central Asian context and on intergenerational dynamics, this paper might be helpful. Also to researchers working on the ‘cultural neighbourhood’, on interethnic relations or on the concept of ädamo in Southern Ethiopia.

Enjoy!

 

Podcast about my book

Sean Guillory of Sean’s Russia Blog spoke with me the other day about my book “The force of custom. Law and the ordering of everyday life in Kyrgyzstan.” You can listen to the podcast online here or download the podcast here.

In our interview, Sean asked me what inspired me to do a study on “custom” (Kyrgyz salt) and how we can understand the concept anthropologically, how it is communicated, what metaphors are associated with it and in what contexts we can observe it in action.

Sean was also interested in hearing my reasons for not anonymizing my main informants, how people in my fieldsite conceive of their history, what the historical trajectories of the local courts of elders (aksakal courts) are, how Soviet life has been unmade after Kyrgyzstan gained independence, how we should understand the role of the state in the countryside and what the roles of elders and their relationship with villagers, politicians and state administrators are.

Finally, we discuss my decision to end the book with a criticism of the concept of postsocialism which, I argue, is not central for understanding everyday life in Kyrgyzstan.

 

“What is non-traditional after all? Gender, sex, and discrimination in Central Asia”

Panel at the European Society for Central Asian Studies (ESCAS) Conference October 8-11 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland

Organized and chaired by Prof. Dr. Judith Beyer

 

1. Judith Beyer

Juniorprofessor of Anthropology, University of Konstanz, Germany

Introduction

This panel seeks to problematize the notion of tradition and retraditionalization in the Central Asian context. The three papers critically investigate the implications of current retraditionalization discourses and practices concerning gender, sex and discrimination. (Re-) traditionalization is often portrayed as a positive dimension of ongoing wider transformation processes, and as a source of inspiration to which people in Central Asia turn to, looking for guidance in how to shape their own future. This panel, however, concentrates on the intended or unintended side effects of such discourses and practices, and seeks to explore in what ways they might lead to an overall re-conceptualization of gender- and sex-relations on the one hand, and to an exclusion, marginalization and criminalization of some members of society on the other hand.

 

2. Cynthia Buckley

Professor of Sociology, University of Illinois, USA

Framing homosexuality in moral terms: Patterns of potential tolerance among Eurasia’s Muslim populations
Over the past decade substantial shifts in public opinion regarding homosexuality in western Europe, north America and elsewhere match legislative changes legalizing same sex unions and restricting statues limiting the rights of homosexuals. Most recently, Russia and other Eurasian states have been experiencing increasingly restrictive legislation regarding homosexuality and rising tides of anti-homosexual public opinion. Using data from the 2012 Pew Research Center’s Muslim World Survey, I investigate levels and individual predictors of homosexual tolerance in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Russia. Supporting previous studies on tolerance, bivariate logistic regression indicates that highly educated, female, rural and less religious individuals are less likely to view homosexuality as morally unacceptable in all countries but Russia. However, age patterns among Muslims in Eurasia differ markedly from other national studies. Thinking sociologically about the origins of and trends within tolerance can improve understandings of current public opinion trends and identify likely future trajectories in Central Asia.

 

 3. Anna Kirey

Senior Program Officer, Public Health Program at Open Society Foundations

LGBT activism in Central Asia at the crossroads after the introduction of ‘propaganda’ bills
In my presentation I would like to provide an overview of LGBT activism in Central Asia with a focus on Kyrgyzstan and some glimpses into three other Central Asian countries. As someone who participated in ten years of emerging LGBT activism in the region, I would like to discuss different influences that contributed to framing LGBT issues before the ‘propaganda’ discourse emerged in post-Soviet space and after the introduction of the ‘propaganda’ bill in Kyrgyzstan. I will also relate this to current developments in Russia and Ukraine and to an overarching discourse on traditional values.

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4. Diana Kudaibergenova

PhD Candidate, University of Cambridge, UK

Instagram exposed: Framing traditional and neo-traditional gender perceptions online
The paper discusses (neo-) traditional perspectives and perceptions as framed through the visual platform Instagram in contemporary Kazakhstan. Discussing gender roles in patriarchal societies such as Kazakhstan, I propose researching Instagram on the basis of three levels of framing: an internet-based frame (action), a social frame (traditional perceptions and code of behaviour) and a neo-traditional frame (re-creation of presumably traditional values online). In doing so, I argue that social networks serve as spaces of visualization and re-creation of new forms of traditional and “acceptable” behaviour, lifestyles, self-representation, gender and sexual identity as well as beauty standards. Instagram is both a global space of visual exchange as well as a norm-setting framework on the local level. In this hybrid production of cultural content, youngsters in Kazakhstan are positioning themselves as global consumers of famous brands and glamour but also as guardians of traditional lifestyles. But Instagram also serves as a space for breaking the typical gender roles especially for non-traditional discourses of male gay culture in Kazakhstan.

“Work in progress. Performing the state in Central Asia”

I will give a lecture at the Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca on May 12th, 2.30 pm.

The topic is based on a co-edited volume I did with Madeleine Reeves and Johan Rasanayagam called “Ethnographies of the state in Central Asia. Performing politics.” (2014. Indiana University Press).

EthnographiesState

The seminar is organized by Antonio De Lauri.

Here’s the link to the programme: seminario stato 2015

 

 

Call for Papers: European Society for Central Asian Studies (ESCAS)

Central Asia in the XXI Century: Historical trajectories, contemporary challenges and everyday encounters

Call for pre-organized panels and papers

The European Society for Central Asian Studies (ESCAS) invites proposals for individual papers, panels and roundtable discussions for the fourteenth ESCAS biennial conference scheduled for 8th -11th October 2015 at the Department for Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Zurich, Switzerland. The Conference will be organized by the Halle-Zurich Centre for the Anthropological Study of Central Asia (CASCA).

ESCAS welcomes proposals relating to all aspects of research in the arts, humanities and social sciences on Central Asia – namely the republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, together with Xinjiang, Mongolia, Afghanistan and adjacent regions of Russia, China, Iran, South Asia and the Caucasus.

Scholars and practitioners of anthropology, archaeology, architecture, art & art history, cinema, development studies, economics & finance, history, musicology, philology, political science, sociology and other related disciplines are encouraged to participate. We particularly welcome panel proposals which will cross disciplinary boundaries, bringing together experts from different fields.

The theme of the 2015 conference is “Central Asia in the XXI Century: Historical trajectories, contemporary challenges and everyday encounters“.

More information, including where to submit your pre-organized panels or papers here.