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Where Are All Our Sheep?: Kyrgyzstan, A Global Political Arena

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Volume 16


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Where Are All Our Sheep?

Kyrgyzstan, A Global Political Arena

Boris Petric
Translated from the French by Cynthia Schoch

186 pages, 2 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-783-1 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (September 2015)

eISBN 978-1-78238-784-8 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook from these vendors Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“This very rich and accessible ethnography speaks to all social sciences researchers working in countries that live through major social, political, economic and symbolic restructuration due to their adoption of the market economy and democracy (Central Asia, the Balkans)…This ethnography is an excellent point of departure for future anthropology researchers who work in a very complex and paradoxical world of today.” • Anthropology News

“…a wide-ranging and engaging book, which provides a vivid portrait of the fall-out from two decades of economic and political experimentation in this ‘laboratory’ for democratic reform in Central Asia.” • Anthropos

“…the best book to date on post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan. It combines personal observations with careful, critical analysis. The style is at times humorous and conversational, creating the impression at first glance that it might be a somewhat superficial account of the region. In fact, however, it is an extraordinarily perceptive analysis of the process of transition and re-adjustment in a highly complex society.” • Shirin Akiner, University of Cambridge and University of London


After the collapse of the USSR, Kyrgyzstan chose a path of economic and political liberalization. Only a few years later, however, the country ceased producing anything of worth and developed a dependence on the outside world, particularly on international aid. Its principal industry, sheep breeding, was decimated by reforms suggested by international institutions providing assistance. Virtually annihilated by privatization of the economy and deserted by Moscow, the Kyrgyz have turned this economic “opening up” into a subtle strategy to capture all manner of resources from abroad. In this study, the author describes the encounters, sometimes comical and tinged with incomprehension, between the local population and the well-meaning foreigners who came to reform them.

Boris Petric is a Social Anthropologist and a Senior Researcher at the CNRS in Marseilles. His first book Pouvoir, don et réseaux en Ouzbékistan post-soviétique (2002), was awarded the Le Monde prize for university research. He recently edited Democracy at Large: NGO’s, Political Foundations, Think Tanks and International Organisations (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

Subject: Anthropology (General) Development Studies
Area: Asia


Map of Central Asia
Map of Kyrgyzstan

Introduction: Someone Ate All Our Sheep

  • On the Kyrgyz Highlands
  • In Search of a Baseline
  • Looking Back on a Soviet Economy of Intensive Livestock Farming
  • From Kolkhoz to Village
  • The Anthropologist in the Face of Social Change
  • Some Local Authority Figures
    • The Former Kolkhoz Chairman: The Bashkarma
    • The New Official Local Authority: The Ayil Okmotu
    • The “Biznesman”: Economic Power
    • The Shepherd: A Prestigious but Powerless Figure
    • The Moldo or the Affirmation of Religious Authority
  • The Rise of NGOs and the Development of Private Enterprise
  • Logics of Power: Appropriation, Plunder, and Capture of Resources

Chapter 1. Manas, Unesco, and the Kyrgyz Fabula

  • Manas: Political Uses of a Traditional Oral Epic
    • Indigenization and Nationalization of the Epic
    • Manas 1000: Political Ritual of the New Kyrgyz Identity
    • Manas Gumbez: A National Heritage Site
    • Manas Ayili and the Building of an International Image
  • UNESCO: Global Entrepreneur of the Kyrgyz National Imaginary
  • Polysemous Perceptions of the Creation of the New National Imaginary
  • Democracy, Decentralization, Tribal Identity, and Minorities
  • Affirmation of Ethnic Identity in the South of the Country
  • Enhancing “Tribal” Identity in the North
  • Manas in a Context of Globalization

Chapter 2. Kyrgyzstan and Good Governance Experts

  • The Ideology of Good Governance: Minimal Government, Private Enterprise and Civil Society
  • The UNPD: Decline of the State, Promotion of Local and Traditional Political Practices
  • From an Economic Planning Culture to a Project Culture
  • Promoting Democracy
  • The Development of Local Kyrgyz NGOs
  • Electoral Assistance: Technical Aid or Political Interference

Chapter 3. Elections and the Promotion of Democracy

  • Ethnography of an Election
  • IFES and Elections: Democracy@large
  • Ethnography of an American Political Foundation Training Session
  • Training and Strategy of Influence
    • Eligibility: The Demokrat and Kyrgyzness

Chapter 4. The Fall of the Common House

  • The Soviet Regime or the Ambition to Establish Absolute Control over Human Flows
  • Askar Akayev’s Common House Ideology and Emigration of the Russian-Speaking Population
  • Rural Exodus and Urban Sprawl
  • From Migration to Increased Kyrgyz Mobility
  • The Russian Perspective: Gastarbeiter
  • The Political Weight of Remittances in Kyrgyzstan

Chapter 5. The Bazaar: Symbol of a Society of Traders

  • The Bazaar: The Return to a Natural Economic Order?
  • The “Bazarkoms”: New Social Figures
  • Property and Political Protection: The Dordoy Bazaar and Askar Salymbekov
    • From Dordoy Bazar to Dordoy Associatsia: The Transmission of Capital
    • Patronage and Political Clientele
    • Redistribution and Social Legitimacy
    • Soccer and Kok-boru
    • Giving to the Dead and to God: Monuments and Jubilees
  • The Changing Face of the Bazaar: The Labor Market on Avenue Maladoja Guardia

Chapter 6. Civil Society and Election Monitoring

  • Koalitsia and the National Democratic Institute
  • Baisalov: Portrait of a Democracy Promotion Icon
  • Koalitsia and the ENEMO Transnational Network
  • Intellectual Influences: Non-Violent Movements
  • Koalitsia’s Hour of Glory: The Tulip Revolution
  • Participative Observation in an Election Mission
  • The Election Mission: A Multi-camp Caravan
  • The Deployment of Observers
  • Return to the Capital and Debriefing
  • The Press Conference
  • Cocktail Hour: The Communion Ritual of Democracy Promoters
  • Communion of Contentious Actors: Opposition Coalition, Koalitsia, and Kel-Kel

Chapter 7. The Transnationalization of Politics

  • Anthropology of a Fraudulent Election
  • Electoral Observation and Local Dynamics
  • A Changing Political Personnel: From Appointees to Elected Officials
  • Becoming a Deputat: An Exemplary Political Battle
  • Political Transhumance, Opposition, Marginalization, and Exile
  • Political Practices and Regional Factionalism
  • The New Role of the President and Appointed Political Personnel
  • From Communism to Keminism
  • From Keminism to Teyitism
  • The Political Change in 2005: Revolution, Overthrow, or Coup?

Conclusion: The Kyrgyz Laboratory and the Global Politics
Afterword: From the Kyrgyz Fabula to the Ethnic Apocalypse?

Appendix I: Kyrgyz Republic Timeline
Appendix II: Census of Kyrgyzstan Population


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