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Senior Research Seminar: Professor Catherine Alexander

When Mar 03, 2017
from 04:15 PM to 06:00 PM
Where Edmund Leach Room, Division of Social Anthropology
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Professor Catherine Alexander (Durham University)

More than kin: counting Kazakhs and Kazakhs that count


Expatriate Kazakhs (oralman) are nominally welcomed back to Kazakhstan by the government but often simultaneously resented by urban Kazakhs and Russians for their failure to be ‘modern’ and/or for taking state resources. The oralman seem to exist across and between several unalignable pairings e.g. urban/non-urban; those who left and those who stayed; skilled and non-skilled, Kazakh and non-Kazakh. The paper suggests that this appears, and is experienced as, a number of linked registers of indeterminacy that resist neat categorisation. First the oralman appear to have an excess of ‘authentic’ Kazakh attributes – threatening nationalist narratives from within. Second, they embody the collapse of: distinct time periods, distinct scales as both abstract numbers for population counts and human beings, and ritual and mundane spheres for the performance and embodiment of Kazakh tradition. And third, the frequent failure to give official documents to the repatriates consigns them to a bureaucratic limbo—matched by many repatriates’ decision to reject the nation-state they serve to legitimize, and instead to inhabit extra-state spaces.

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