Embedded in History
A Study of Kyrgyz Historicity and Historical Consciousness
The Swedish foundation for humanities and social sciences
In the modern world people are encouraged to view history as processes of significant change in the world and to view the personal and local as less important. Personal history is subordinated to large-scale processes that are explained by scholars and politicians.
While Kyrgyz villagers in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan understand these hierarchies of world history, they hold to other ideas about the place of history in community life. This project investigates how Kyrgyz create and share local understandings through material, social and spiritual practices that embed them in history. Interactions with ancestors and other spirits give direct knowledge of the past, abilities such as healing and divination are inherited within family lineages, and popular Muslim historical ideas circulate in religious activities. People are identified in terms of kin, ancestors and age-mates. In social life people evoke the shared past as foundation for present solidarity, and display the mutual appreciation that promotes good relations for the future.
Émile Durkheim argued that society worships itself through its religion, but this project investigates the ways Kyrgyz construct and sacralize their society through historical knowledge and its expression. This project analyzes how Kyrgyz historical consciousness comes less from European modernity than from indigenous practices and concepts, and historical significance emerges from ongoing engagement of community and individuals.
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Constitutional court in Bishkek, with Kyrgyz, Soviet and international political symbols and architecture.
New mosque and local mullah in a village near Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Inscriptions and offerings at tomb of Shah Fazl in southern Kyrgyzstan.