Viva-voce examination – May 8, 9:00-11:00

photoOn May 8 at 9 a.m., Sandra Real will be defending her thesis in a viva-voce examination. The viva is public and all are welcome to attend.

Room 8.105, School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Title: Narratives of Kumis Production and Consumption in Contemporary Kazakhstan

Kumis, a beverage made with fermented mare´s milk, is a part of national cuisine, symbol of health, and unique cultural identity in modern Kazakhstan. It is also a part of the traditional cycle of horse husbandry and the modern small business production that thrives in the countryside around big cities. In my study, based on the in-person and online survey of kumis consumers and on in-depth interviews with kumis producers in the two major cities of Kazakhstan, Astana and Almaty, I explore the dynamics of kumis supply chain and customer behaviour and discuss how modern-day city dwellers make choices about kumis consumption while imagining the landscape, seasonality, and “natural-ness” of kumis production.

Internal Advisers: Alima Bissenova & Christina Pugh

External Adviser: Russel Zanca (Northeastern Illinois University)

Viva-voce examination – May 7, 19:00-20:00

On May 7 at 7 p.m., Adel Kosherbayeva will be defending her thesis in a viva-voce examination. The viva is public and all are welcome to attend.
Room 8.105, School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Title: Neither Allowed to Get Old, Nor Allowed to Stay Young: Kazakhstani Aged Women Negotiate Ageing 

Critical literature on ageing and old age points to the pervasiveness of ageism and that aged people do not celebrate high social status in modern industrial capitalist societies. At the same time, anti-ageing discourses give the agency as well as place the responsibility to “fight” with ageing and old age on the aged people themselves. While above-mentioned dictates are more or less global and can be applied to many modern societies, Kazakhstani societal and cultural patterns simultaneously dictate its own expectations regarding the limits, opportunities, and rights of aged people. Sociocultural expectations also greatly depend on gender.

Building on the discourse analysis of qualitative interviews with Kazakhstani aged women (59-69 years old) this study points to multiple, complex, and contradictory discourses around old age, ageing, and gender permeating and shaping social lives of aged women in today Kazakhstan. Nevertheless, this study also shows that aged women are not passive recipients of societal discourses about gender and ageing. Instead, they are active participants in discourse production. By talking about caregiving practices that constitute a significant part of their lives and ageing experience, they exploit contradictory societal discourses regarding ageing, old age, and gender roles. This and other self-representation discursive strategies allow them to maintain a sense of control, dignity, self-worth, continuity in their lives, and connectedness to others.

Internal Advisers: Sofiya An & Erika Alpert
External Adviser: Cynthia Werner (Texas A&M University)

Viva-voce examination – May 6, 17:00-19:00


On May 6 at 5 p.m., Merey Otan will be defending her thesis in a viva-voce examination. The viva is public and all are welcome to attend.
Room 8.105, School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Title: Not suitable for Kazakhs? Authenticity and National Identity in Contemporary Kazakhstani Music

In the two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the musical landscape in Kazakhstan has come to include diverse localized versions of global music. The alternative soundscape of modern Kazakhstan encompasses rhythmic electronic dance sounds, hard rock, romantic and mellow indie, harsh rap, experimental rock, and other genres. Modern musicians now use an electric version of a traditional instrument, the elektro-dombyra, to perform ethnic rock. The language of performance among musicians varies from Kazakh to Russian and English. One recent phenomenon in Kazakhstan is the emergence of ‘Q-pop’, which is largely modeled on K-pop and which is rapidly gaining popularity among the local audience. Many of these performers faced some criticism for their unconventional choices of instruments, genres, and visual images. This thesis addresses the questions of what strategies these musicians themselves use to claim authenticity, and how these strategies intertwine with local discourses of national identity, language, and gender.

In answering the research questions, the project uses qualitative ethnographic research methods, including in-depth interviews with musicians, producers, and cultural activists from Almaty, Astana, and Taraz, participant observation of the concerts, together with a textual and visual analysis of songs. The project will look closely at performances of the traditional qobyz player Almat Saizhan, the ethnic rock group Aldaspan, the indie group Moldanazar, and the Q-pop group Ninety One. It will also briefly discuss choices of indie bands like Molto Loud and city&shivers, rock group Far in Gate, electronic project KinRai, and a rapper Kanamar, focusing on their choices of instruments, language, and genre. The thesis will illustrate how Almat Saizhan and Aldaspan assert legitimacy by performing on ancient and modernized versions of traditional instruments, by engaging with discourses of national identity, and by recreating local ideas of hegemonic masculinity. It will show how all of my participants legitimize themselves through explaining their language choices and will unravel the language ideologies implicit in these explanations. Finally, the project will outline how Moldanazar and Ninety One declare authenticity by adapting global ideologies of indie and K-pop genres to local ideas of authenticity and autonomy, and by embracing to varying extent ideas of alternative masculinity.


Internal Advisers: Gabriel McGuire & Meiramgul Kussainova
External Adviser: Rachel Harris (SOAS, University of London)

Viva-voce examination – May 6, 15:00-17:00

On May 6 at 3 p.m., Gaukhar Baltabayeva will be defending her thesis in a viva-voce examination. The viva is public and all are welcome to attend.

Room 8.105, School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Title: Patriotic and Pragmatic. Transnational Involvement of Current and Former International Students from Kazakhstan in the US

International students are generally neglected as a type of migrating population in the literature. However, building on transnationalism theory in migration studies, the present thesis demonstrates that current and former international students resemble modern transnational migrants. They meaningfully connect the country of study and origin and involve themselves in transnational practices.

Studying the case of international students from Kazakhstan in the US, this thesis discovers that when in the country of study, Kazakhstanis enhance their patriotic sentiments and sense of belonging to their origin country. They sustain ties with their compatriots and re-create cultural activities from home in the US. The thesis also discovers that students’ involvement in transnational activities does not end with their return to Kazakhstan. Their transnationalism becomes ‘reversed’ as it maintains ties with the country of study. For the returned students, patriotism becomes less important than pragmatic considerations related to their future jobs and careers. Therefore, the thesis argues that transnational involvement of the Kazakhstani students in the US is motivated by their patriotic feelings whereas transnational involvement of the returned students is driven by their pragmatic considerations.

Internal Advisers: Caress Schenk & Saltanat Akhmetova
External Adviser: Tsypylma Darieva (Center for East European and International Studies, Berlin)

Viva-voce examination – April 28, 18:00-20:00

IMG-20180727-WA0004On April 28 at 6 p.m., Assem Kaliyeva will be defending her thesis in a viva-voce examination. The viva is public and all are welcome to attend.

Room 8.105, School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Thesis title:  What to Throw Away?  Perspectives on Waste Management in Nur-Sultan

The waste management system of Nur-Sultan is a large-scale complex that provides the services like waste collection, sorting, recycling and burying in the landfill. The main organizations that are directly involved in these processes are the Akimat (municipal government) for the Saryarka district of Nur-Sultan, LLP Clean City NC (private waste collection company), LLP Kaz Recycle Service (recycling facility) and LLP Nur-Sultan Eco-Landfill (a landfill for municipal solid waste and construction waste). Due to both recent urbanization as well as to a high level of consumption among city residents, the amount of waste is increasing in Nur-Sultan and the waste management organizations are under pressure to constantly increase their work capacity.  In this thesis, the waste management system of Nur-Sultan will be examined primarily from the perspective of employees, as well as from the population of the city.  Firstly, the working conditions of the waste management workers will be analyzed in terms of the decreased economic value of waste management sector and decreased prestige of the sphere as a result. Secondly, there will be determined how the workers (legal, illegal and migrant) in the waste management sector confront the stigmatization of their profession. Finally, the residents of Nur-Sultan will share their thoughts and beliefs concerning waste and their memories of waste management during the Soviet period. The concept of value will be a defining term in all three chapters because since waste is typically regarded to be worthless, but both the employees and residents of Nur-Sultan have their own perception of the concept. By considering the economic and moral characteristics of value, I show the changing social conditions of waste and its management in the city.

Internal Advisers:  Eva-Marie Dubuisson & Paula Dupuy 
External Adviser: Joshua Reno, Binghamton University 

Viva-voce examination – April 26, 18:00-20:00

On April 26 (Friday) at 6 p.m., Zhuldyz Tashmanbetova will be defending her thesis in a viva-voce examination. The viva is public and all are welcome to attend.
Room 8.105, School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Title: Christianity in Central Asia: Adoption of East Syriac Christianity in the Medieval period

In 2016 archaeologists discovered the medieval city of Ilibalyk in modern-day Kazakhstan. This new and exciting archaeological excavation of the medieval archaeological site Ilibalyk reveals the presence of the Church of the East or the East Syriac Church in the region for the first time. The excavations during 2016 and 2017 at Ilibalyk revealed East Syriac Christian gravestones and a graveyard of the late 13th – early 14th century CE, revealing the presence of a Christian population in the late medieval city and in Central Asia in general. Based on analysis of the range of gravestones recovered during excavations at Ilibalyk, this thesis questions the extent to which the Christian communities were integrated into the multireligious society of Central Asia. The thesis examines this question through the stylistic analysis of the medieval Christian gravestones and of the crosses engraved on them. This analysis provides us with an insight into how East Syriac Christians were integrated in the multireligious society of Ilibalyk, which was located in the Chagatai ulus. From this research of the uncovered archaeological data, we can say that the Ilibalyk Christians, who developed their religious identity in a non-Christian environment, may have been not only well integrated in the socio-religious life of the Ilibalyk community, but also occupied a place in a wider Christian network in this region. Moreover, the research poses further questions of how the East Syriac Christian community developed its identity in medieval Central Asia. This thesis provides some possible answers to those questions and stresses where further research could lead. It is one of the few studies that makes an attempt to understand the relation between the religious iconography developed by the East Syriac Christians in Central Asia and the religious identity that they expressed.

Internal Advisers: Daniel Scarborough & Paula Dupuy 
External Adviser: Mark Dickens, University of Alberta

Eurasian MA First-Year Project Presentations – Monday, Apr. 15, 10.00 – 16.30, 8.105

On April 15 first-year students of the MA program in Eurasian Studies will be presenting their thesis feasibility studies in preparation for their research over the summer. The presentations are public. The full schedule is below:

Ulbazar Ilyassova
Stage jokes about the Human Body in Contemporary Kazakhstan: the gap between the intention of the author and perception of the audience.
Advisers: Gabriel McGuire, Reza Taherkermani

Jiayina  Mieyeerhan
The Religion, Identity, and Sense of Belonging in Aitys Poetry
Advisers: Eva-Marie Dubuisson, Gabriel McGuire

Yuliya Ten
Gender Nonconformity and Homoeroticism in Kazakhstan’s Contemporary Art
Advisers: Victoriya Thorstensson, Erika Alpert

 11.30 -12.00
Zhanar Tuyakpayeva
The Perception of Landscape by the Altai people in the Altai Republic
Advisers: Daniel Beben, Eva-Marie Dubuisson

Lunch break

14.30- 15:00
Dulat Ilyassov
Construction of Kazakhstani Queer Identities Based on the Gay Discourse in Kazakh
Advisers: Erika Alpert, Jenni Lehtinen

Aidana Karabassova
Framing Interethnic Relations in News and in Social Media in Kazakhstan
Advisers: Aziz Burkhanov, Alima Bissenova

Gulnara Miribayeva
Young Women’s Experience of Unintended Pregnancy in Kazakhstan

Advisers: Sofia An, Gavin Slade

David Orlov
Role of Humor in Non-Humorous Situations – the Case of Bosnia
Advisers: James Nikopoulos, Jean-Francois Caron

On December 11-12, Eurasian Studies Students took part in the Migration Conference at MGIMO

Two of our second-year students presented their research at the “Migration Bridges in Eurasia: Migration as a Resource for Socioecomonic and Demographic Development” conference at MGIMO

Gaukhar Baltabayeva presented her paper “US immigration policies and Bolashak scholarship conditionality as shaping forces of international student migration from Kazakhstan to the US”


Adel Kosherbayeva presented her paper entitled “Ageing experience of women migrants in Germany: qualitative study”


Thesis Defense – December 5, 09:00-10:00

On December 5 at 09:00, Xeniya Udod will be defending her thesis in a viva-voce examination. The viva is public and all are welcome to attend.

Room 8.105, School of Humanities and Social Sciences 

Title: Feminisms in Kazakhstan: at the intersection of global influences and local contexts
Feminism has been gaining its momentum in Kazakhstan, with several feminist unions and numerous individual activists publicly promoting feminist ideas, advocating for gender equality and LBTIQ rights in the country. By drawing on in-depth interviews with the outspoken feminist activists, I posit that contemporary feminisms in Kazakhstan are now entering the stage of reflecting on their specific stance vis-à-vis the complex set of gender ideologies and practices concerning Central Asian women and their space in society, ranging from (but not limited to) the system of patriarchy, controversial Soviet project of “women’s liberation,” more recent influences of Western neoliberalism and capitalism, and the dominant discourse of “Western feminism.” My research data demonstrate that by admitting the constructed, complex nature of contemporary Kazakhstani feminisms, my respondents move to the elaboration of the modalities of the movement’s further prospects, which has the potential to form a particular postsocialist local feminism embedded in the region’s tangled geo-temporal realities.

Internal Advisers: Elizabeth Mount & Alima Bissenova
External Adviser: Marianne Kamp, Indiana University

Post-fieldwork Presentations by Eurasian Studies Students, Sept 15, 10:30-14:00, 8.105 (Block 8)

This Saturday, Sept 15 between 10:30 and until 14:00 second-year students of the MA program in Eurasian Studies will be presenting preliminary analysis and findings from their fieldwork. The event is open to public.
10:30 -11:00

Gauhar Baltabayeva
International student migration from Kazakhstan to the US
Advisers: Caress Schenck & Saltanat Akhmetova

Sandra Real
Narratives of Kumis Consumption and Production in Contemporary Kazakhstan
Advisers: Alima Bissenova & Christina Pugh

Merey Otan
Contemporary music in Kazakhstan and Youth identity
Advisers: Gabriel McGuire & Meiramgul Kussainova

Adel Kudaibergenova
Elderly Women in Kazakhstan: Ageing Experience and Popular Representations
Advisers: Sofiya An & Erika Alpert

12:30-13:00  Lunch Break

Zhuldyz Tashmanbetova
The indigenous Christianity of Kazakh steppe: Adoption of Nestorian Christianity in Medieval Central Asia
Advisers: Daniel Scarborough & Paula Dupuy

13:30- 14:00
Assem Kaliyeva
The waste management system in Astana: The social hierarchy and self-perception among the employees of waste management sector
Advisers: Eva-Marie Duibusson & Paula Dupuy