The State and the Sacred: Memory, Theology, and Identity in Kyrgyzstan
Artman, Vincent Michael
University of Kansas
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Since becoming independent in 1991, Kyrgyzstan has endured two revolutions, ethnic violence, and economic decay. Against this tumultuous background have been ongoing attempts to construct a viable Kyrgyz nationalism and the “resurgence” of religion in the public sphere. In many respects, however, these phenomena have been conceptualized as being largely independent of one another. Similarly, religion – and Islam in particular – has sometimes been depicted as an ideological “alternative” to a congenitally weak and fractured Kyrgyz national identity, and as an autonomous force to be confronted, tamed, and instrumentalized by the state. This dissertation seeks to reassess the seemingly fraught nature of the relationship between religion, politics, and identity. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Kyrgyzstan in 2014, it argues that religious and political geographies should not be viewed as fundamentally alienated from one another. Rather, the territorial logic of the nation-state inevitably exerts a powerful influence on the religious imaginary, while religion in turn constitutes a crucial site for the formation of national identity and the legitimation of state power. This dynamic points to the enduring centrality of the nation-state during an era of continuing globalization, as well as the need for further attention devoted to understanding and acknowledging the critical importance of religious discourses in the constructing political identities and geographies.
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