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Ambivalences and Contradictions of Care (Perspectives from Central Asia) 
Elena Borisova (University of Manchester)
Swetlana Torno (Heidelberg University)
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Aksana Ismailbekova (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO))
Anthropology & Archaeology
Saturday 16 October, 9:15-10:45 (UTC-4)

Long Abstract

The aim of this panel is to explore the complexity of ambivalent entanglements of care in ethnographically grounded ways. Analytically, our panel brings insights from the Central Asian context into contemporary theoretical discussions on care. Commonly understood as a practice, an attitude, and a relation that connects people with their material, social, and natural environment, care has been studied in connection to family and the household, welfare systems and their reorganization under (neo)liberal economy. It has also been theorized in terms of the emotional or devalued labour mostly done by women, ethnic minorities or other socially marginalized groups. The Central Asian region has long been defined by the ruptures produced in the process of post-socialist restructuring and transition to market economy. Our panel zooms in on two countries that are considered to be the poorest states in the post-Soviet space and one of the most remittance-dependent economies in the world, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Having experienced rapid changes in the first decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, local populations have been living and struggling to build meaningful lives while navigating profound economic and political uncertainty under conditions of ‘chronic crisis’. Against this backdrop, care has become a scarce resource mostly provided and obtained within kinship networks that are constituted through relations of mutual dependency. It is precisely the giving and receiving of care as well as the manipulations thereof in kinship networks that help people cope with multiple uncertainties in their lives. Yet, at the same time, care itself is profoundly ambiguous. Some of the recent scholarship problematizes the overall positive image of care pointing to uncomfortable liaisons, moral fringes, and uncanny outcomes of care practices. Based on panelists' extensive ethnographic fieldwork, our panel critically engages with this scholarship by examining ambivalences and contradictions of care across a range of social sites and life phases. The ethnographic examples show how care obligations and expectations are negotiated between different actors in critical moments in life. In particular, the papers investigate how marginalized populations strategically employ the ambivalence of kinship-based forms of care to claim one’s worth and the right to be cared for; challenge the ‘positive’ perception of care by exposing its connection to sexualised violence; and question the limits of transnational forms of care in the context of routinised labour migration.

Accepted papers: