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Accepted Paper:

Even Dying Siberian Poplars Leave Roots  
Michael Zukosky (Eastern Washington University)

Paper Abstract:

For one ethnic minority Kazakh vernacular thinker in northwest China, the idea of rootedness is important; in his book of proverbs, songs, and prayers, he argued that like the Kazakh ethnic group were like the life of the Siberian Poplar tree, the Kazakh ethnicity’s roots ran deep; the Siberian Poplar was a hardy tree and its roots could grow several times the diameter of its crown. The Siberian Poplar is known to propogate through long distances. For this elder, to be rooted means to maintain an ethnic spiritual and material connection across time and space, event and object, like the figurative Siberian Poplar. Across generations of time and different lifeways, Kazakh will always be Kazakh. The value of this “poetics of expression,” is that it speaks to the younger generation of his community, struggling with the changing political economic life in China and increasing out-migration, struggling with the growing generational gap. For the elder, this spiritual and material relationship among Kazakh from the past and today, those living in Kazakhstan and those abroad, cannot be undone, transcending time and space, and this offers his younger readers spiritual meaning and purpose, belonging and community, comfort and coping, and a sense of security and control. In this paper, the elder writer's analogy is interpreted through an ethnographic textual analysis using oral history and archival research, an anthropology of analogy that draws on theories of language and ethnic identity.

Panel P204
Roots and their undoing: ethnographies of connection and dislocation
  Session 2 Wednesday 24 July, 2024, -