Accepted Paper:

Migrant Workers and Modern Brides: Gendered Dimensions of Identity in Contemporary Tajikistan  


Mariana Irby (University of Pennsylvania)

Paper long abstract:

Relatively little scholarly attention has been given to the gendered dimensions of language change and national identity in the 'Stans of Central Asia. In the Republic of Tajikistan, one of the most remittance-dependent countries in the world (Reeves 2015: 121), large numbers of men must pursue both seasonal and long-term employment opportunities in the Russian Federation. This phenomenon of outbound migration of Tajiks to Russia has not only consolidated the Russian language as valuable cultural capital (Bourdieu 1979), but has also left the women who remain in Tajikistan largely responsible for the transmission and maintenance of the Tajik language and other cultural practices. However many Tajik women, particularly those residing in the capital city of Dushanbe, must also take on primary roles in the Russian-language socialization of their children. Thus the pressure on women is to embody "Tajikness" through the use of a semiotic register that extends beyond language to include sartorial practices, indexing a nationally imagined traditional ideal. This paper draws primarily upon four months of preliminary ethnographic research in Tajikistan during the summers of 2017 and 2018 an analysis of the hit three-part Tajik film series Aroosi Zamonavi ('Modern Bride'). In these sources of data, a woman's failure to embrace Tajik national dress ( libosi milli) is indexed with frivolity, selfishness, and lack of competency in household affairs. I ultimately argue that in post-Soviet Tajikistan, women face distinct pressures prompting them to both performatively embody the paradigm of a "true" Tajik woman while having to bilingually socialize their children in both Russian and Tajik, operating as agents between the socially consequential loci of "pride" and "profit" (Duchene and Heller 2012).

Panel MIG-02
Migration and Identity