Following the downturn of the transitional economy in Kazakhstan in the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of Kazakh villagers left their homes for urban areas. This research examines the notions of identity, ancestry, the shejýre (Kazakh historical narratives articulating ancestral ties), and the nation that emerged in the testimonies of recent rural to urban migrants in Almaty. In addition, special attention is paid to how their experiences of displacement and adjustment to their new environment have been systematically misconstrued in urban mass media and social analysis in a fashion that resonates with the colonial rhetoric of the Soviet regime. This analysis of urban narratives should help shed light on identity politics and the poetics of nationhood at the time of historic transformation and should be especially of interest to the students of identity, social change, nationalism, and historical narratives.
Saulesh Yessenova is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Calgary, Alberta. She received her Ph.D. from McGill University in 2003. She was awarded with a Social Sciences