Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

The research and writing represented by this book spanned more than a decade, and during that time I received help from a significant number of people without whom this project never would have been finished. My initial fieldwork of 2004–6 was supported by research fellowships from the Fulbright-Hays Program and the Wenner Gren Foundation. I am grateful to Bakhytnur Otarbayeva, ...

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A Note on the Cover Art

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pp. xi-xii

The gifted artist Saule Suleimenova has graciously allowed her graphic painting Bata to be included here as cover art. This is a piece from her series entitled Aruakhtar (Ancestor Spirits), in which she explores how the spirits of those who have passed continue to inhabit and observe the contradictions of modern life. Each image in that series contains a backdrop of a gritty urban landscape—from construction projects to graffiti—invoking the hardness of street life in the ...

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A Note on Transcription and Transliteration

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pp. xiii-xiv

The transscribed material in this volume is presented in two different ways. For both poetry and blessings (bata), I have provided, side by side, both the original Kazakh as well as an English translation. These translations are all the result of collaborative efforts and help from native speakers, but I take full responsibility for any mistake or lack of clarity in the final result. ...

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A Note on Fieldwork and Method

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pp. xv-xxiv

One of the central methodological premises of this book—that meaning comes from conversation and dialogue in encounter—was born not only from a theoretical perspective but also from practical and methodological issues emerging after years in the field. The material I present in chapters three and four on the contemporary oral tradition...

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Introduction: An Ancestral Worldview

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pp. 3-24

Throughout Inner Asia, the relationship between the living and their ancestors, those who have come before, is a critical component of both structuring a cultural worldview and imagining a social future.1 Heroic ancestors, such as Manas in Kyrgyzstan and Chinggis Khan in Mongolia, are a fundamental component of nation-building and national identity today; ...

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One. Bata and Blessing

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pp. 25-55

This chapter is based on a series of long conversations I had with my host family and friends in the field one summer late in my fieldwork and in preparation for writing this book. I had come to the point where I felt like I had many pieces of some kind of puzzle but lacked some kind of key to truly understand it all, a key that I sensed, based on years of previous fieldwork, might be bata. ...

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Two. Guardians of the Ancestors

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pp. 56-83

In this chapter I discuss how the wishes, prayers, and intentions of a variety of ancestors are conveyed to living “descendants” through the mediation of caretakers at sacred sites around the country. These graves and shrines where ancestors are buried become part of an affective landscape, one that is visible throughout Inner Asia at sacred sites.1 ...

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Three. Ancestry in Aitys Poetry

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pp. 84-105

In this chapter, I turn toward a performative tradition in which the relationship between people and their ancestors is performed and embodied in another kind of dialogue: a live verbal duel between two poets. This is the oral art of aitys, which comes from the verb aitysu, to talk to each other. The tradition is widespread across the Turkic-Mongol world, ...

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Four. Dialogic Authority

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pp. 106-132

The word aitys comes from the Kazakh verb aitysu (to talk to each other). This form of poetry itself is a back-and-forth composition—a dialogue—and the relationship between poets and their sponsors, who are typically national- and regional-level politicians, is also a two-way street. In the case of aitys (as well as many other philanthropic and cultural projects in the region), ...

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Conclusion. Participatory Politics

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pp. 133-144

One fundamental problem that many Central Asians experience is a distinct sense of distance from capital cities and centralized governments; in Kazakhstan the seated parliament has been enshrined in the new capital city of Astana, where the presidential power of Nursultan Nazarbayev has reached mythic proportions (Laszczkowski 2014).1 ...

Notes

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pp. 145-156

References

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pp. 157-168

Index

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pp. 169-176

Back Cover

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