Keeping the road open: waiting, migrating and the domestication of hope in rural Kyrgyzstan
Madeleine Reeves (University of Manchester)
Paper short abstract:
Through an ethnography of ‘staying behind’ in the context of protracted out-migration for work, this paper enquires into the material and political conditions for the possibilities of future hope, and the ways that such hope is ‘domesticated’ in contexts of state withdrawal.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores the relationship between waiting, leaving, house-building and hope in the context of contemporary Kyrgyz transnational migration. In rural Kyrgyzstan, despite the very real hardship that is recognised to accompany migration and the ever-present risk of deportation, migration has come to be seen as the necessary precondition for a properly future-oriented existence. The paper focuses on two strategies central to this practical and imaginative work of 'keeping the road open': house-building, particularly for newly-married sons, and 'doing up a passport' (passport kyluu): that is, the purchase of Russian passport and the (official, at least) revocation of one's Kyrgyzstani citizenship. Such strategies, I suggest, point to a paradox at the heart of contemporary Kyrgyzstani migration: the vast majority of my interlocutors spoke of labour migration in Russia as a temporary process that would ultimately create the conditions for meaningful family life in Kyrgyzstan. Yet such possibilities are increasingly seen to be contingent, not just upon a potentially indefinite period of work far from home, but on a displacement of political membership: the ceding of Kyrgyzstani citizenship in favour of the Russian citizenship that protects against the risk of deportation. Critically engaging the workshop's call to explore strategies of endurance and maintenance as 'alternative analytical pathways into the future', this paper enquires into the material and political conditions for the possibilities of future hope, and the ways that such hope is 'domesticated' in contexts of state withdrawal.
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