“We Love Death more than You Love Life” What Jihadists, Thieves in Law and Abreks from the Caucasus Have in Common
In a recent book, Oliver Roy argues that a significant part of the global appeal of the Islamic State lies in its death romanticisation equally popular in youth culture and shared by other millenialist revolutionary movements. This argument is problematic as it entails a high degree of speculation about jihadists’ ‘real’ motivation and attitude. Still, it importantly directs our attention to the cultural embeddedness of the figure of death seeker as well as its fictive genealogies. In my presentation, I will follow this thread and outline a genealogy of role models centred on the motive of embracing death while still alive. All of these role models are vividly present in contemporary discourses all over the Caucasus. The first role model is the so- called Abrek, a Caucasian bandit-come-rebel elevated to resistance fighter in the 19th century. The second is the ‘thief in law’, a criminal authority emerging from the Soviet prison camp system who, in later years, was often a Georgian. The third is the jihadi fighter of late, who has joined the international movement and commits suicide bombings in the Caucasus and beyond. In all three cases, embracing death is represented as a means of empowerment, and those who have allegedly transcended the fear of death are praised as much more powerful than their adversaries (even though these may be more powerful technically). By tracing some cultural roots of the death cult in the ideology of jihadi fighters from the Caucasus, the discourse on global jihadism is purposefully provincialized; the aim is to de-mystify global jihadism and to identify areas of intersection between jihadi ideology and local countercultures.
Bio: Florian Mühlfried teaches in the Caucasus Studies Program at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena. He is the author of Being a State and States of Being in Highland Georgia (2014) and Post-Soviet Feasting: The Georgian Banquet in Transition (2006, in German). His research interests include issues of citizenship, the state, ritual, feasting, and mistrust.
The public lecture is given within the framework of the Joint Central Asia/South Caucasus Projects Summer School and is funded by Volkswagen Foundation
Empowered by Translocality? Affordances and Constraints of a Research Perspective
In this presentation, I will speak for a team of scholars, and I hope I will do it correctly. I will start by outlining the conceptual frameworks of a research project on “Translocal Goods – Education, Work and Commodities between Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, China and the Arab Emirates” funded by the Volkswagen foundation in 2013. This outline will be articulated around “translocality”, and why and how it was found useful for studying Central Asia. In this part of my presentation, I will mostly follow Manja Stephan-Emmrich and Philipp Schroeder — two of the leading members of the project who introduced translocality as a research perspective to the team — though I will also emphasize aspects of translocality that I “discovered” by myself. Second, I will offer a review of the ways in which the translocal perspective was applied by a team of scholars of Central Asia, me included. Though I will speak as truthfully as possible for my colleagues, I will spend more time on my own contribution since it is here that I feel most confident. I will finish by some reflections on research perspectives, their affordances and constraints, and on the role of research perspectives in the research projects funded by the Volkswagen foundation. Surprisingly or not, my concluding reflections will connect again to some of the insights that translocality can offer as a research perspective.
The public lecture is given within the framework of the Joint Central Asia/South Caucasus Projects Summer School and is funded by Volkswagen Foundation
Svetlana Jacquesson is the director of the Central Asian Studies Institute at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and head of the MA program in Central Asian studies at the same university. She holds a PhD in ethnology (2000) from the National Institute of Oriental Languages and the High School for Social Sciences in Paris, France. After her PhD, she was first elected research fellow at the French Institute for Central Asian Studies in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (2000-2003), then a senior research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany (2006-2009). In 2010-2012, she was a Volkswagen Stiftung grant holder at the Centre for Interdisciplinary studies of Martin Luther University in Halle, Germany.
The Taste of Place and the Nature of Trust: Zhailau Foods in Post-Socialist Kazakhstan In contemporary Kazakhstan, as among other industrial and post-industrial societies, ideas surrounding rurally-sourced foods extend beyond questions of urban-industrial hygiene or quality control, and point more powerfully to the perceived moralities instilled in foods sourced from different places. These places may […]
On Thursday 15th June at 17.45 Dmitriy Mel’nikov will be defending his thesis in a viva-voce examination.
The viva is public and all are welcome to attend.
Room 8.322B, School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Title: Toward Russophone Super-Literature: Making Subjectivities, Spaces And Temporalities In Post-Soviet Kazakhstani Russophone Writing
Abstract: This thesis is devoted to the analysis of literary works by a number of the leading post-Soviet Russophone Kazakhstani writers: Anuar Duisenbinov, Bakhyt Kairbekov, Diusenbek Nakipov, Nikolai Verёvochkin, Il’ia Odegov and Iurii Serebrianskii. Kazakhstan is a country where Russian literature has been developing quite successfully since the collapse of the USSR. There has been a transformation of writing in Russian in Kazakhstan since the country’s independence – with the rise of the new generation of the writers in the 2000s, Russian literature in Kazakhstan transformed into Russophone Kazakhstani literature. In this thesis, I argue for the difference between the younger and older generations of the contemporary Russophone Kazakhstani writers – the latter is focused on post-traumatic sense of loss and absence, while the former is characterized by a more positive identification concentrated on the new national post-independent realities of Kazakhstan. The concept of Russophone super-literature fits most the younger generation of the authors. The main argument of the thesis is that Russophone Kazakhstani literature is a supralinguistic and supracultural realm where complex subjectivities of Russophone Kazakh-ness, “other” Russian-ness and Kazakhstani-ness are produces and expressed. While increasing their community, the younger writers reconsider the imperial and colonial aspects of Russian-ness, incorporate (Russian-Kazakh) bilingualism, keep pace with literary modernity, accumulate their international literary capital and seek for independence from the political and nationalizing agendas of both Kazakhstan and Russia. Despite its growing importance, post-Soviet Russophone Kazakhstani literature is almost unexplored in English-language scholarship. While relying on textual analysis of prose and poetry as well as on in-depth interviews with the Kazakhstani writers, I conclude that now Russophone Kazakhstani literature demonstrates a high degree of vitality, first of all by nurturing new generations of Russophone writers in the Almaty Open Literary School; however, the bright possible future of the literature should not be overestimated, because of a number of problems such as poor national book market, the lack of audience and the continuing de-Russification of the country.
‘The Perception of Volunteering Experiences of Young Volunteers in Kazakhstan’
This thesis focuses on volunteering as a modern phenomenon that has emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union in Kazakhstan. The volunteering phenomenon has been neglected by social science research in Kazakhstan. Therefore, this study was undertaken to investigate the emergence of volunteering as a new unexplored social process. Particularly, I explore how perceptions of young volunteers form during their volunteering experience, that helps to understand the position of volunteer in Kazakhstani society. This thesis heavily relies on interviews with volunteers and key informants. In addition, I review the laws of Kazakhstan related to non-governmental and non-profit sector that indirectly touches upon volunteering and the recent Draft Law on volunteering (June 16, 2015). The thesis includes the opinions of experts, volunteers and government representatives on volunteers’ position and volunteering phenomenon in Kazakhstan. I explored the notion of volunteering in Kazakhstan, the opinions of participants on their motivations and the benefits from volunteering, the main issues that influence perception and motivation of volunteers in relationships with other actors (society, the state, volunteering organisation). The contribution of the study is the model of the relationships of volunteers with other actors, illustrating how the relationship between volunteers and the state, society and volunteering organisations are important for the volunteering sphere overall.
‘The Internationalisation of Higher Education in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan: State Policies and Institutional Practices?’
This thesis deals with the interpretation and implementation of the internationalisation of higher education in Kazakhstan at national and institutional levels. The goal of the study is to find out how internationalisation of higher education is defined in the national policy documentation and in universities’ development strategies on education, how that interpretation is similar/different to those appearing in academic literature, and how it is reflected in the universities’ practices of internationalisation. As the research results illustrate, national and state higher education institutions in Kazakhstan are dependent on state policies in terms of internationalisation, though some freedom is given to universities in academic mobility and international cooperation, and limited by governmental funding for internationalisation activities. Kazakhstani universities plan and implement only the feasible elements of internationalisation, thus minimising the risk of failure.
‘Branding Kazakhstan: the Relationship between State and Non-state Actors.’
This thesis is devoted to the analysis of Kazakhstani nation branding processes. The Republic of Kazakhstan faced the need to present itself on international arena right after the country’s independence. The questions of nation branding were sidelined until the beginning of the 2000s, but they have recently received a new impetus. Academic literature on Kazakhstani nation branding tends to focus on separate advertising campaigns, thus failing to illustrate the whole mechanism of this phenomenon. In addition, it views nation branding as a top-down process, often overlooking the role of non-state actors. By focusing on tourism promotion as one element of the country’s nation branding, this research attempts to distinguish between state and non-state actors engaged in Kazakhstani nation branding and to examine how the relationship between those actors influences the national brand. Although it is difficult to draw clear differences between these sets of actors, in-depth interviews with representatives of the tourist board, tourist association, and travel agencies reveal the existence of a distinction between state and non-state actors as defined by nation branders themselves. Analysis of websites, printed, video, and audio materials helps to identify the images of Kazakhstan that are promoted on the international level, as well as to highlight particular elements of these images that are stressed by different sets of actors. Using a grounded theory approach, this study comes to the conclusion that the level of interaction between state and non-state actors has a strong influence on the content of the national brand.
‘Traders of the Central Bazaar in Astana: a perspective on motives and social networks.’
This MA thesis focuses on the Central Bazaar traders in Astana that were recruited via convenience sampling. The goal of the research is to investigate the reasons for becoming a trader, identifying factors that lead to the decision to become a trader, and the role of social networks in traders’ lives. In this paper I employ the bottom-up approach to research informal markets as opposed to macro perspective and thus I focus life stories of traders. The research fills the gap in the literature of informal markets by addressing the relationship between one’s motives and social networks in trade. I find that traders’ motives have decisive effects on the establishment of social networks and on the evolution of social networks over time as well as on traders’ perceptions of success and failure. On the one hand I found that highly extrinsically driven traders are better off by establishing strong social networks, which often times evolve into unconditional social networks. This is due to the fact that strong social networks provide traders with the feeling of security and stability. Strong social networks over time, however, become less complex and turn into two-dimensional connections. On the other hand, highly intrinsically driven traders often times fail to establish meaningful social networks due to an individualistic approach to trade and no desire to cooperate and commit to networks.
’Language Ideologies of Kazakhstani youth: the Value of Kazakh in the Context of a Changing Linguistic Marketplace.’
The issue of the statuses and use of Kazakh and Russian languages has been a topic of disputes and discussions on both public and private levels since Kazakhstan obtained its independence. During the years when Kazakhstan was a part of the Soviet Union the Soviet authorities deliberately promoted Russian language and culture and displaced the local language from public domains. As a result, Russian language acquired an important place in everyday lives of the people and was a lingua franca for the population. Thus, Russian was perceived as a prestigious language whereas Kazakh lost its value. There have now been 25 years of the promotion of Kazakh language. The population of Kazakhstan reports having positive attitude to Kazakh language and the number of children studying in Kazakh-medium schools increased during the years of independence from about a million people in 1991 to approximately 1.57 million in 2011 (Altynbekova, 2011; Fierman, 2006). However, despite the authority of Kazakh as an authentic language Russian is the dominant language in many domains.This thesis focuses on the language ideologies of contemporary Kazakhstani young people based on fieldwork conducted in the new capital city of Astana. The Kazakhstani younger generation has complex language ideologies regarding the value of Kazakh, Russian, and English which affect young people’s use of languages in different contexts. Russian is not likely to lose its value in the near future, while the current trends promise an increase in popular support for the use of Kazakh.
On Monday 24th April first-year students on the MA in Eurasian Studies will be presenting their thesis feasibility studies in preparation for their research over the summer. The presentations are public, and the students are anxious for feedback and comments, so do please attend if you’re interested. The full schedule is below:
Monday 24th April Room 8.322B 10.00 – 13.20
10.00 – 10.20 Aigerim Kagarmanova: Electronic bazaar: Social Media as a marketplace in contemporary Kazakhstan
The phenomenon of shuttle trade emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sellers with professional qualifications started trading in bazaars and shopping centers to sustain their families and survive during the economic transition period. This study looks at contemporary small business representatives that trade on Social Media in order to explore the way bazaars have extended to the digital world and became a part of electronic commerce in Kazakhstan.
10.20 – 10.40 Xeniya Udod: A Choir of Soloists: Agendas and Controversies of Contemporary Feminism in Kazakhstan
My paper investigates a recent revival of feminism in Kazakhstan where several feminist unions as well as numerous individual activists promote feminist ideas, as well as advocating gender equality and LGBT rights. In a country with a mixed legacy of public and private patriarchy, such activity faces challenges, and or even dangerous responses towards the public display of feminism and/or non-heterosexual sexuality. By founding this paper upon academic sources from Eastern European countries as well as Soviet and post-Soviet Russia and other Central Asian republics, as well as by conducting in-depth interviews with the country’s outspoken feminist activists, I seek to define their concepts of thecontemporary Kazakhstani feminist agenda and its basic principles.
10.40 – 11.00 Di Wang: Tarbagatai and Ili: Trade and Merchant Networks in northern Xinjiang in the 18th and 19th century.
The research focuses on the political context that enabled trade in Tarbagatai and Ili in northern Xinjiang starting from the mid-18th century and lasting till the end of 19th century. It also addresses the role of merchant networks and commodities.
11.00 – 11.20 Nurgul Zhanabayeva: The Changing Perceptions and Practices of Nonmarital Relationships among Ethnic Kyrgyz Youth in Bishkek
The proposed study aims to investigate the patterns of nonmarital relationships among young never-married heterosexual men and women in Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek. I am particularly interested in how young people understand and interpret “romantic relationships” within their cultural settings, as well as their intentions and aspirations when establishing a nonmarital relationship that might involve emotional and/or physical intimacy.
11.20 – 11.40 Zhansaule Kimel: Small town capitalism: socio-economic implications of women’s involvement in trade
I am going to explore the involvement of the population in the informal sector of the economy in a small town of southern Kazakhstan. I am also going to focus on how and why women play a greater role in maintaining the economic development of the city through trade, which is one of the key income sources of the city population.
11.40 – 12.00 David Hansen: Bones of the Bronze Age: A bioarchaeological study of micro-regional interaction in south-east Kazakhstan
This study examines the evidence for health and disease among the individuals from an archaeological site in southeast Kazakhstan by drawing on osteological assessment of skeletal remains from the site. The research will address questions on ancient identity, ritual systems, and economy among prehistoric pastoralist populations of Central Asia, and investigate the individual against the backdrop of Bronze Age regional interactions
12.00 – 12.20 Merey Seitova: The changes adults with physical disabilities experienced in health care due to the transition from the Soviet Union to independent Kazakhstan
The research will focus on how health care changed for adults with disabilities because of the transition from communist Soviet Union to sovereign Kazakhstan. The research will include conducting qualitative interviews in Astana with adults with physical disabilities of different sex, and age above 30 years. The participants will be recruited by method of snowball sampling. The home for adults with disabilities in Astana will be also visited for observation and participants’ recruitment.
12.20 – 12.40 Karina Matkarimova: German “Soft Power” Strategy in Kazakhstan: Educational and Cultural Aspects.
The research is dedicated to the analysis of German “soft power” strategy in Kazakhstan, with particular focus on education and culture spheres. The aim of the research is to understand features of German “soft power” strategy, the role of the German diaspora in “soft power” strategy and to indicate the main actors engaged in this process.
12.40 – 13.00 Dina Mukatova: Nuclear culture and Nuclear legacies in Kazakhstan and Japan
In my research I am going to focus on Kazakhstan and Japan, countries that directly suffered from the nuclear weapons. The emergence of nuclear culture became a significant step in the comprehension of nuclear energy use. It is a set of perceptions that people have in order to deal with the consequences of the nuclear legacy, whether they suffered directly from nuclear testing, or they lived in the constant fear of irreparable damage from nuclear fallout. There is a lack of scholarship dedicated to Kazakhstani nuclear culture. However, Japanese culture abounds with the works related to the nuclear legacy. I want to compare the Kazakhstani and Japanese experiences of dealing with the consequences of nuclear use.
13.00 – 13.20 Togzhan Kalamysheva: The socio-cultural underpinnings of the life insurance market Kazakhstan.
This study analyzes the life insurance demand in Kazakhstan through the prism of the cultural and social norms of Kazakhs. It will examine the socio-cultural response of Kazakhs to the idea of life insurance. As well, it aims to investigate the influence of the current economic situation and socio-demographic factors on the life insurance consumption.
The Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics is pleased to invite you to the public lecture by Dr. Karen Evans-Romaine (University of Wisconsin-Madison).
Title: “On Wings of Song: Romantic Image-Makers in Russian Modernism”
Time and Date: Friday, February 24, 4-5 pm.
Dr. Evans-Romaine is a specialist on Boris Pasternak, intertextuality in Russian Modernism, interrelationship of music and literature, German-Russian literary relations, European Modernism and Romanticism; and foreign language pedagogy. She is the author of Boris Pasternak and the Tradition of German Romanticism. Munich: Verlag Otto Sagner [Slavistische Beiträge, Vol. 344], 1997, and numerous articles and book chapters on Russian literature and foreign language pedagogy.
The Department of Languages, Linguistics and Lieratures (aka WLL) invites you to a lecture by Professor Andrew Reynolds (Department of German, Nordic and Slavic, UW-Madison) titled:
“Preserving whose speech?: Mandelstam in translation and the quest for the authentic in post-1945 British, Irish, and American poetry”
When: Wednesday, October 19, 4:00-5:00 pm
Where: Block 8, Room 8.140
After providing a brief account of the translation of Mandelstam and other Russian and East European poets into English and also of some of the main trends in Western scholarship on these poets, I shall explore some of the reasons why English-language poetry in this period turned to the East. Some more specific questions of translation strategies and literary interpretation will also be discussed with particular reference to Mandelstam’s 1931 masterpiece “Sokhrani moiu rech’ navsegda za privkus neschast’ia i dyma” (“Preserve my speech forever for its aftertaste of misfortune and smoke”).
Andrew Reynolds is Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at UW-Madison, and the author of Death and the Poets: Osip Mandelstam, Alexander Pushkin and the Poetics of Influence (forthcoming from University of Wisconsin Press).