Accepted Paper:

Diverse meanings and uses of Germanness: who is when a German in Kazakhstan?  


Rita Sanders (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explicates diverse concepts of Germanness held by the Kazakhstani Germans and explores how they are affected by institutionalized identities which also link them to the state level.

Paper long abstract:

The German minority as all minorities of the former Soviet Union are mostly simply assumed to be there and to have some kind of importance. I argue that the relevance of ethnic belonging varies and it is exactly that what makes it interesting. When and how are boundaries drawn by means of ethnic affiliations and which significance do minority organizations have in this process?

Germans in Kazakhstan hold quite different perspectives on the importance of Germanness. I elaborate how first different life stories may help understand these differing concepts of ethnicity. Furthermore, I look at the role the minority organization Wiedergeburt (German for 'rebirth') plays in strengthening ethnic belonging. First of all, the organization provides different kinds of benefits for the Kazakhstani Germans. Moreover, Wiedergeburt gives its members the opportunity to stage their 'ethnicity' on different kinds of occasions, like the first of May. The paper explores the impact of those official ethnic performances on the process of the making and remaking of ethnic identities, by viewing institutionalized concepts of ethnicity affected both by the state with its rhetoric and policies and last but not least by the people themselves who, in very different ways, make use of the offered ethnic affiliations.

Panel W088
Migrant associations in Europe: simultaneous incorporation, everyday cosmopolitanisms and actually existing citizenship