Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Foreword: On Native Sons, Fake Brothers, and Big Men

Peter Finke

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pp. vii-xii

If I were to summarize this book in one sentence, I would probably proceed with something along the lines of “Aksana Ismailbekova has provided us with a wonderful and theoretically inspired ethnography on kinship and patronage in post-socialist Kyrgyzstan.” If I were to add a second sentence, this would go on to elaborate on the impact of both institutions on local economics and on national politics. That is to say, one key argument of Ismailbekova is that in local understanding there is no contradiction between patronage and democracy, as most of the political science literature would want us to believe, but that both...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xvi

My deepest acknowledgments go to my informants in Kyrgyzstan with whom I talked so many hours and followed across various settings. Thank you for spending those hours with me, for hot tea, and for delicious food. I am thankful especially for people’s support and care. I was treated as an honored young guest, but the times people reminded me of my place in the community were helpful, as well.

Special thanks are due to several informants. Rahim’s grandmother, Gulas apa, met me with wonderful memories, openness, kindness, and good treatment whenever I visited her. Eki, with astonishing generosity, openness, and trust,...

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Note on Transliteration

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pp. xvii-xviii

Fieldwork was conducted mostly in Kyrgyz language. Kyrgyz (Turkic language) Fieldwork was also conducted in Russian language. The Soviet linguists standardized the Kyrgyz language in the early Soviet years three times.1 The first alphabet was Arabic, but this alphabet was not widely spread in pre-Soviet Kyrgyz Autonomous Republic because the representatives of higher social strata were literate that time. However, in 1927 Latin alphabet became the official alphabet of the Kyrgyz Autonomous Republic. Only in 1941 was the Cyrillic alphabet officially introduced by the Soviet Union with the aim to speed up...

List of Acronyms

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pp. xix-xxii

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Introduction: The Native Son and Blood Ties

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pp. 1-21

It was cold on December 2, 2007, when I ran into Kanybek, a Kyrgyz man of thirty-five, on a crowded public minibus at the bus station in Tokmok, a small town in northern Kyrgyzstan. Both of us were on our way to Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek. I already knew Kanybek—we first met when I visited his house in June 2007. When Kanybek got on the minibus, he saw me and sat next to me. Kanybek told me that he was on his way to Bulak, his native province. It was election time in Kyrgyzstan, and all the political parties were broadcasting their campaign messages over the radio. Sitting together on the minibus, we listened...

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1 Kinship and Patronage in Kyrgyz History

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pp. 22-41

It is not easy to define “the Kyrgyz.” As an ethnic group, and as an ethnically defined nation, the Kyrgyz are bound by bloodlines, claims of kinship, and mythical narratives about shared ancestors. People use all these forms of kinship to prove their own identities and those of others. The Kyrgyz kinship system has also been influenced by different economies and politics for centuries.

In the recent past, the intertwining of Kyrgyz kinship relations with politics was perceived by the Soviets as morally dubious, a “remnant of feudalism,” and a sign of the “backward” nature of the Kyrgyz. Soviet policies were meant to transform...

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2 Scales of Rahim’s Kinship: Zooming In and Zooming Out

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pp. 42-66

To grasp the interlinkage between patronage and kinship, it is important to situate Rahim’s position in the wider Kyrgyz genealogical system that shaped his action and behavior. The use of kinship to build political power is not unusual for an ethnic Kyrgyz politician. The important question to ask is thus how Rahim’s kinship profile made him poised to become a regional patron. How did Rahim’s place in larger genealogical relations link him as a potential patron to multiple households, villages, geographic regions, and, indeed, a whole province?

Kinship relations are interwoven with questions of property, landholding and inheritance, local politics, employment...

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3 “Renewing the Bone”: Kinship Categories, Practices, and Patronage Networks in Bulak Village

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pp. 67-88

Chapter 2 outlined the basic frame of kinship relations with which Rahim established himself as a “native son” and patron in the village of Bulak and beyond. This chapter looks more closely at the ideals of family, kinship terminology, marriage, ritualized parenthood, and space and place that Rahim used to craft his role as the village’s native son and to build patronage networks. In particular he built creatively on the relations of respect, consensual subordination, and forms of material support that are expected from kin.

To sketch out the ideals briefly: Households in Bulak are gerontocratic and patriarchal. Elders control things...

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4 The Irony of the Circle of Trust: The Dynamics and Mechanisms of Patronage on the Private Farm

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pp. 89-111

While discussing kinship and the importance of helping distant kinsmen with my informants in Bulak, the topic of the former kolkhoz in the village of Orlovka and its new owner—Rahim—often arose. In these conversations, people said that the new management was disorganized and fraught with internal competitions, and that the new farmworkers were suspicious, untrustworthy, and strange. At first I paid little attention because I was focused on Bulak, but as I learned that the kolkhoz provided many jobs for Bulak villagers, I also became interested and decided to visit Orlovk...

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5 Patronage and Poetics of Democracy

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pp. 112-133

In this chapter, I present a particular ethnographic moment concerning a dispute over land that reveals differing views on the role of religion in public space, the inability of the state to guarantee the enforcement of the law, and how the state is governed through creative uses of kin solidarity. The dispute resulted from a proposal to build a mosque in Orlovka. Community members with secularist views and business interests refused the proposal. The land on which the proposed mosque would have been built was zoned as public land, though in practice it was controlled by Rahim as if it were private property. I focus on the negotiations...

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6 The Return of the Native Son: The Symbolic Construction of the Election Day

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pp. 134-154

Parliamentary elections were called by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in Kyrgyzstan on December 16, 2007, after the constitutional referendum on October 21, 2007, approved a new electoral system and constitutional reform proposals. The constitutional referendum enlarged the parliament from sixty to ninety members and introduced a party-list voting procedure. It aimed to grant candidates from different financial backgrounds, and of different gender and age, equal chance of election. In this sense, the party system stipulated candidate lists should include at least 30 percent women, 15 percent minorities, and also some...

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7 Rahim’s Victory Feast: Political Patronage and Kinship in Solidarity

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pp. 155-180

Rahim used his unique aristocratic Ak-Jol lineage to legitimize his authority in the political competition and claimed to represent his community in parliament as its native son. Rahim was supported by his local networks during the elections, as a result of which he was elected a parliamentarian. To celebrate his political victory, Rahim organized a large-scale banquet, a known cultural format for sharing public news. Through the feast, Rahim sought to reestablish himself as the successful son of a widely defined “lineage” and to consolidate his newly gained political power....

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Concluding Words: Native Son, Democratization, and Poetics of Patronage

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pp. 181-190

From the case of Kanybek and his relationship to his boss, Rahim, this book opened its pages. Kanybek was obliged to support Rahim during his election campaign and to carry out certain tasks for him. But Kanybek described the relationship slightly differently: he was loyal to his boss, who in return would protect him. Rahim was a protector and guarantor of Kanybek’s security and well-being. Rahim had supported Kanybek for many years; for example, he had bought Kanybek some land on which to build a house in the capital, helped him erect a stall at the Nurmanbet Bazaar, and promised to educate Kanybek’s young...

Glossary of Local Terms

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pp. 191-196

Bibliography

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pp. 197-210

Index

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pp. 211-218

About the Author

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p. 219