From Shanghai to Iug-2 … and What Now? Traces of (Re-)Claiming Bishkek from Multitemporal Fieldwork in Kyrgyzstan

in Central Asian Affairs

This article examines practices of (re-)claiming in Bishkek through the prism of “multitemporal fieldwork.” Focusing on the young male residents of a Soviet-era neighborhood, I trace their ways of performing belonging in a rapidly changing urban environment. Most significantly, these men’s coming of age has been accompanied by a gradual detachment from their exclusive focus on a neighborhood community that locally used to be known as Shanghai. Already during our first encounter in 2007, the primary territorial orientation for these residents’ social identification and integration had shifted: it then addressed the larger unit of the whole city, where the claim of “being an urbanite” was made by referring to the neighborhood’s administrative name, Iug-2. My most recent observations document not only how “married life” further disconnected these young men from the 2013 neighborhood realities, but also that a multitemporal perspective allows to (re-)contextualize various claims on Bishkek diachronically.

  • 2

    Philipp Schröder, “‘Urbanizing’ Bishkek: Interrelations of Boundaries, Migration, Group Size, and Opportunity Structure,” Central Asian Survey, 29, no. 4 (2010): 453–467; Philipp Schröder, “From Shanghai to Iug-2: Integration and Identification among and beyond the Male Youth of a Bishkek Neighborhood” (PhD diss., Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, 2012).

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  • 4

    Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (New York: ­Columbia University Press, 1983).

  • 5

    Schröder, “From Shanghai to Iug-2,” 72.

  • 9

    Howell and Talle, “Introduction,” vii.

  • 12

    For 2009, the changing group sizes due to in-migration from rural areas indicated that within the Shanghai/Iug-2 neighborhood the group of established “urbans” would still be in a 50–60% majority vis-à-vis the “newcomers/rurals” (35–45%). As concerns the level of the whole city, however, the urbans already were a 35% minority versus 55% majority of rurals or newcomers (Schröder, “‘Urbanizing’ Bishkek,” 458–459). For a more detailed assessment of the different migration “waves” toward Kyrgyzstan’s capital since the late Soviet era, see Paul Fryer, Emil Nasritdinov, and Elmira Satybaldieva, “Moving Toward the Brink? Migration in the Kyrgyz Republic,” Central Asian Affairs, 1, no. 2 (2014): 171–198.

  • 15

    Schröder, “From Shanghai to Iug-2,” 118.

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    Howell and Talle, “Introduction,” 12.

  • 19

    Johannes Fabian, “Cultural Anthropology and the Question of Knowledge,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 18, no. 2 (2012): 439–453.

  • 21

    Fabian, “Cultural Anthropology and the Question of Knowledge,” 446.

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