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Accepted Paper:

Dilemma of Cultural Representation of Nomadic People: A Case of Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan  
Tugsbuyan Bayarbat (National University of Mongolia) Tsetsentsolmon Baatarnaran


Keywords: cultural representation, nomads, nomadic culture, political construction, decolonization, commodification, and oriental orientalism.

This paper examines the cultural representation of nomadic cultures in post-socialist Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in Ulaanbaatar, Bishkek, and Kazakhstan, the study investigates the transformation of nomadic identity from a stigmatized past to a celebrated aspect of national heritage. Through interviews, observations, and textual analysis of films and state policies, the research illuminates the complex dynamics shaping the reimagining of nomadic culture.

The study highlights the profound sociocultural shifts triggered by the collapse of the Soviet Union, prompting a resurgence of interest in reclaiming pre-socialist nomadic heritage. Young individuals in the region express a desire to embrace and promote their nomadic culture, viewing it as a source of pride and identity. However, the process of cultural reconstruction is entangled with nationalist narratives and orientalist tropes, leading to romanticized representations of nomadic life.

State-sponsored events like the "Nomadic Mongolia - 2022 Grand Festival" and the "World Nomad Games" in Kyrgyzstan serve as platforms for showcasing and commodifying nomadic culture for both domestic and international audiences. These festivals contribute to the construction of a national identity rooted in nomadic traditions, while also reflecting broader geopolitical ambitions and economic interests.

The research underscores the tension between tradition and modernity in the commodification of nomadic culture. While efforts to promote nomadic heritage aim to preserve tradition, they risk commodifying and exoticizing it for global consumption. Moreover, the study reveals the persistence of orientalist ideologies in shaping external perceptions of nomadic cultures, perpetuating stereotypes despite attempts to challenge them.

Overall, this article offers insights into the multifaceted process of cultural representation and identity formation in post-socialist Central Asia. By examining the interplay of state policies, global markets, and local aspirations, the research sheds light on the complexities of reclaiming and reimagining nomadic heritage in a rapidly changing world.

Panel ANT07
Cultural Representation, Interpretation, and Transformation
  Session 1 Saturday 8 June, 2024, -