"Going out": missionary and migratory movements and the search for a liveable life in contemporary Kyrgyzstan
(University of Manchester)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the practice of Muslim proselytising (davat) and departure for seasonal undocumented work in Russia to ask how we might recast the relationship between physical and existential mobility in contexts of economic crisis and the normalisation of migrant deportation.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores two forms of explicitly outward-oriented movement in contemporary Kyrgyzstan that are rarely held together in the same analytic frame: the practice of Muslim proselytising (davat), which seeks to draw notional or non-practicing Muslims to a more explicit articulation of their faith; and the practice of 'going to town' (shaarga baruu): that is, making a living from seasonal, often undocumented, migrant labour in Russia. These two forms of movement appear outwardly very different: the first oriented towards spiritual and moral renewal; the second, to sustaining domestic livelihoods in a context limited options for rural employment. Moreover, the circulations of movement they entail are quite distinct: the first, collective and premised upon intra-regional movement; the second, upon movement away from Kyrgyzstan. In both cases, however, success is premised upon the capacity to mobilise a variety of human and non-human powers as a way of taming future uncertainty and navigating between competing domestic obligations. More fundamentally, both are concerned with the realisation of a life that is 'good', in both moral and material terms. The paper draws on fieldwork with migrants and involuntary non-migrants in Batken, Kyrgyzstan and Moscow to explore how the conditions for future hope are sustained when a 'migratory disposition' is stymied by economic crisis and the widespread subjection to re-entry bans. In so doing it considers 'going out' as an analytic that can afford insight into the intersections of physical and existential (im)mobility in contexts of economic and political uncertainty.
Mobility, power and possibility: the search for liveable lives [ANTHROMOB]