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Accepted Paper:

A mirror of paper: Anūar Älīmzhanov and the art of vernacular classification  
Christopher Baker (American University of Central Asia)

Paper abstract:

My contribution will focus on the writing of Anūar Älīmzhanov, a poet who devoted his career to assembling distinctly Kazakh ethnographies from bits and pieces of paper and taxonomy that had piled up in the Eurasian steppe. Älīmzhanov was a Kazakh artist studied in a heritage that had bent the instruments of natural history to ethnographic knowledge, retooling them to classify human difference in taxonomies that had previously indexed “plants, animals, and natural curiosities, as well as artificialia, or ‘objects of art.’” He sifted through this knowledge while altering and amending it, listing the words that did not match Kazakh things and while remarking on compendia in which the pieces of his past seemed present but also out of place. He made himself an expert in the dictionaries and encyclopedias of the classificatory heritage, envisioning a codex in which the remnants of the past would fit together to form an image of his own ethnography and in which disparate Eurasian names would represent iterations of a single Kazakh tradition. He pulled apart taxonomies and compendia, trying one piece and then another from compendia made by men who imagined a time when “all the languages of the world will be recorded and placed in the dictionaries and grammars and compared together.” His engagement with this knowledge involved cutting out pieces of ethnography and reassembling them to form a mirror of paper, though the reflection he fashioned was ultimately plural than singular. The Kazakh figure he exhibited in his art was covered with paper and words taken from heteroglot translations of experience. Every piece of text or classification he patched into his art represented a translation of reality specific to a time and place and an optic or way of seeing the world bound to “historically determined and determining methods by which experience is apprehended, imitated, and reproduced.”

Panel REG05
Visions of Self and Community: tradition, modernity, and the negotiation of national and Soviet by Central Asian poets and writers
  Session 1 Friday 21 October, 2022, -