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Raising Children, Forming Subjects: Care Work and State Institutions in Central Asia 
Claire Roosien (Yale University)
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Shoshana Keller (Hamilton College)
Sunday 17 October, 11:30-13:00 (UTC-4)

Long Abstract

Soviet policies dramatically transformed the position of children in Central Asian society. In Soviet institutions, children were mobilized as political subjects in unprecedented ways; in Soviet policy and propaganda, children represented new conceptions of nationhood and civic participation. These transformations had long-lasting consequences for the societies of Soviet and post-Soviet Central Asia, but they remain little understood in the scholarly literature. This panel aims to breach this gap, examining four case studies of children’s roles as objects and subjects of state intervention in Soviet and post-Soviet Central Asia. Claire Roosien examines nurseries for the children of collective farm women in Uzbekistan during the 1930s. Despite insistence in the Party ranks that child care should be a major priority, in fact women tended to avoid child care facilities, and local-level administrators failed to prioritize them in their budgets. Roosien argues that, until the Stalin Constitution of 1937, child care was understood as a kind of cotton infrastructure, rather than a response to the needs of women and children. In the postwar period, Zukhra Kasymova shows, “Mother-Heroines” who raised enormous families became an official media phenomenon. Kasymova analyzes one outlier case: a professionally accomplished woman named Fatima Kasymova who also raised twenty children, including fourteen war orphans. Zukhra Kasymova argues that Fatima Kasymova’s case reveals an underlying tension between visions of Soviet modernity and patriarchal norms. Anna Whittington examines Central Asian school curricula in post-Stalin Central Asia, arguing that textbooks articulated new visions of belonging in the Soviet community. As Whittington shows, these textbooks reflect a latent tension between centering national narratives and submitting non-Russian nations to a subordinate position in official hierarchies. Meghanne Barker turns to post-Soviet Kazakhstan, focusing on cinematic representations of state-run institutions for the upbringing of children. The films thematize the failures of state institutions to care for the most vulnerable in Society, expressing anxieties about the long-term effects of adult neglect of children, such as social deviance. Overall, the panel shows the deep-rooted connections between care work, child welfare, and social control in Soviet and post-Soviet contexts.

Accepted papers: