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Accepted Paper:

Critical Lives: understanding intellectual history through family history  
Aeron O'Connor (University College London)

Paper short abstract:

Bridging the gap between kinship studies and intellectual history, this paper examines how, through marriage, Tajikistan’s intelligentsia have navigated the past century’s political turmoil and promoted intellectual pursuits within the family, despite multiple cycles of persecution.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines ethnographic data from multiple generations of intelligentsia in Tajikistan’s capital city Dushanbe. Interested in how intellectuals navigated the formation of the Soviet Union, Stalinist purges, the collapse of the USSR and a five-year civil war in Tajikistan, this paper looks at how private, family life has played an inextricable role in determining public-facing, intellectual life for these figures. This paper looks at how spouses were chosen for one’s children in times of political turmoil and what repercussions these had on the professional and personal lives of both the individuals in the couple and their extended families: this multi-generational ethnography provides examples of both well- and mis-calculated marital matches – as they are perceived and described by interlocutors themselves. What emerges from this research is a clear link between kinship and intellectual history: two social spaces that are often completely separate from one another in scholarship. In this research, it emerges that the private, domestic environment has played a crucial role in preserving and encouraging locally-specific intellectual pursuits from generation to generation, even when it has been dangerous to promote them publicly in the political climate of the time. Using ethnography and oral histories that span over a century, this paper offers some longue durée perspectives on the role of marriage in intellectual history during political upheaval, how families of socially mobile intellectuals, through kin ties and marriage, navigate political conditions around them to protect their families as well as their intellectual pursuits and ambitions.

Panel P025b
The Hope of Marriage: Transforming Intimate Worlds and Social Futures II
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -