On Thursday (May3) at 18:00, Nurgul Zhanabayeva 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: Restrained by Uyat [Shame]: Culture of Dating and Romantic Relationships among Urban Kyrgyz Youth
This thesis is an exploratory qualitative study of the culture of premarital dating and romantic relationships among urban Kyrgyz youth in the city of Bishkek. Drawing from focus group discussions and individual in-depth interviews with young people, I aim to analyze socio-cultural norms and expectations regarding premarital relationships in Kyrgyz society, as well as to present young urbanites’ experiences of these phenomena. Applying the theory of dating and sexual scripts, I discuss what appropriate dating behaviors should be like in the given context. I argue that dating and romantic relationships are socially approved practices in Kyrgyz society mainly because they are seen as precursors to marriage – an important social institution.
However, the approval comes with certain limitations – among them, the most pronounced is the condemnation of premarital sex in relation to women. While young men allegedly enjoy the freedom of their sexuality, young Kyrgyz women are strongly discouraged from engaging in premarital sex. Uyat – a local concept of shame is used as a mechanism for controlling correct sexual performance, as well as an instrument of punishment for deviant behavior. Restrained by uyat, women are finding creative ways of upholding the social norms – their aim is neither subordination nor subversion, but rather finding new ways of operating in the given reality. Moreover, I posit that men, given their sexual freedom, also face sexual pressure, although of a different nature than women.
Furthermore, it is not only the larger society which sees premarital dating as a prelude to marriage, young people also view dating as leading to marriage. Thus, they approach the choice of a potential partner with care. Among the factors of primary importance for young people is one’s socio-economic status – such as quality of received education and financial background. Less important for young people are their prospective mate’s ethnic, religious and regional background, however, they understand that these factors are important for their families, relatives, and even the larger society.
On Thursday (May3) at 15:00, Togzhan Kalamysheva 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: The Sociocultural Underpinnings of the Life Insurance Market in Kazakhstan
Life insurance is a financial tool used to provide for well-being of dependents in case of premature death or other risks that stop the income flow. The perception of life insurance differs across nations because of the differences in their social norms. This study is about Kazakhs’ perception of life insurance and the extent to which the idea of ensuring life is compatible with their norms and values. In the framework of this study, based on a large database of the life insurance company, I construct the profile of the Kazakhstani life insurance market and define consumption pattern across regions, the occupation of individuals, their age, gender and marital status. Further, I explain this consumption pattern by employing interviews with local people. I analyze my findings through concepts like risk-perception and death-perception that are central to the idea of ensuring life. As life insurance turns out to be incompatible with Kazakhs’ social norms, I explore local sales agents’ marketing strategies to overcome this cultural barrier.
On Thursday (May3) at 09.00, Di Wang 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: The Unofficial Russo-Qing Trade on the Eastern Kazakh Steppe and in Northern Xinjiang in the First Half of the 19th Century
The Treaty of Kuldja (Ili) signed in 1851 between the Russian empire and the Qing empire marked the start of the official Russo-Qing trade in Xinjiang. This thesis aims to explore the generally neglected pre-1851 unofficial Russo-Qing trade on the Eastern Kazakh steppe and in Northern Xinjiang by examining the trade in three area: Semipalatinsk, Tarbagatai and Ili. This pre-treaty era Russo-Qing trade was regarded as illegal on the Qing side with little information available, but legal on the Russian side with abundant data. By comparing the information in Chinese and Russian sources, this thesis argues that the original legal and official Kazakh-Qing trade established in the 1760s was gradually transformed into an unofficial Russo-Qing trade in the first half of the 19th century. Besides analyzing the motivation and the stance of the Russian empire and the Qing empire, this thesis highlights the role of individual actors such as merchants, nomads, government officials and border guards in forging the trade. This thesis also discusses the commodities in the trade, the myth of silver flow and the discovery of the dramatic price change in the year of 1840. The analysis of travelogues and quantitative archival data of the imports and exports of the Semipalatinsk custom post from the 1820s to the 1840s complement the existing scholarship on this topic. By discussing the above-mentioned themes, the author reaches the conclusion that the pre-Treaty era unofficial trade was already marked by established institutions and diverse commodities, though with a high degree of informality. The 1851 Treaty of Kuldja which officialized the Russo-Qing trade in Ili and Tarbagatai did not establish a new trade, but was a result of the pre-Treaty period unofficial trade and carried many characteristics of the pre-treaty era trade.
On Wednesday 25th April at 16.00Aigerim Kagarmanova 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: Electronic bazaar: Social Media as a Marketplace in Contemporary Kazakhstan
This study focuses on different modalities of social media trade in Kazakhstan and how sellers create trust online using platform features, personal skills and physical locations of stores associated with social media accounts. Researching this topic in Kazakhstan locates this study in a specifically interesting intersection of trade, technology, informality and trust. Social media trade is a part of electronic commerce that is new and technologically advanced type of business, however many traders work informally as they fail to meet legal norms as business registration, paying taxes and giving receipts. Just as individual traders poured to the streets in the period of perestroika, modern day small business owners have occupied social media and turned it into an electronic bazaar. As shops located at bazaars transfer their stores online, and traders learn new technology in order to increase their sales, this study challenges the notion of bazaars being static and backward. Driven by the question of trust building in a complex realm of electronic but yet informal trade, I focus on a concept of a “living account” that is coined by my ethnographic data (interviews, observations and social media content analysis). I explore different dimensions of trade both online and offline to understand how these realms are intertwined in the question of informality and trust. I argue that the “aliveness” of an account produced through regular contact allows sellers to create trust that results in a successful sale. So, as long as an account is perceived to be “living” the question of formal registration, taxes and receipts is not relevant to customers.
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.