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Department of Social Anthropology


Dr Yanti Hoelzchen (Frankfurt University)

Kyrgyzstan's New Mosques: Religious Knowledge ilim, Resources and Religious Infrastructure in Present-day Kyrgyzstan

In her talk, Yanti Hoelzchen will present the main findings from her PhD thesis “Kyrgyzstan's New Mosques: Religious Knowledge ilim, Resources and Religious Infrastructure in Present-day Kyrgyzstan” (translated from German), defended in October 2018.

Based on twelve months of fieldwork in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek as well as the northeastern Yssykkul region, Yanti investigates social and cultural dynamics involved in the construction of mosques in Kyrgyzstan since the country’s independence in 1991. She shows how processes of mosque construction are connected to and embedded in larger networks of institutions and agents such as Islamic funds, madrasas, state and non-state institutions, imams, lay preachers etc. In her thesis, Yanti gives a detailed ethnographic account of each of these institutions and groups of agents, and shows how these interconnect and interweave to constitute what she calls the "religious infrastructure". This religious infrastructure, she argues, revolves around the promotion and dissemination of what her interlocutors call ilim - an Islamic concept of knowledge. She portrays how ilim relates to both theological assumptions of what "knowledge" in Islam is, but also to the everyday embodied appropriations, embodied enactments and therefore embodied experiences of this knowledge. Furthermore, Yanti highlights how engaging with this notion of religious knowledge brings about frictions and conflicts in everyday social relationships, and thereby contributes to sociocultural changes on a broader, societal level.
Yanti Hoelzchen has studied Social and Cultural Anthropology as well as Japanese Studies in Germany and Japan. Since 2017 she is a research fellow at the Frobenius Institute for Research in Cultural Anthropology at Frankfurt University. Her thesis was conducted within a larger, interdisciplinary research program titled “ResearchCultures”, based at Tuebingen University and funded by the German Research Foundation.

Monday, 13 May, 2019 - 13:00 to 14:00
Event location: 
Meyer Fortes Room, Dept of Social Anthropology, Free School Lane