CREES Noon Lecture. “Claiming Ancestral Homelands: Mongolian Kazakh Migration in Inner Asia.”
This talk explores the constructions by Kazakhs in Mongolia and Kazakhstan of a “Kazakh homeland,” one which is markedly not coterminous with the borders of any state. In past centuries, nomadic pasture lands cut through and across state borders. Echoing this heritage, contemporary Kazakhs describe and justify a variety of practices, from crossing borders to obtaining illegal passports, in terms of a shared ‘Kazakh’ cultural history of movement. The stories people evoke and tell about the connection and “Kazakhness” (Kazakhshylykh) evidence the simultaneous idealization of both ancestral rootedness and mobility as fundamental to a sense of “belonging” to the land. Thus, Genina argues for the viability of alternative worldviews in which the nation-state, with its attending conceptions of history, territoriality, and membership, has become but one aspect of people’s broader experiences of creating compelling and meaningful ways of life.
Anna Genina is a doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology at the University of Michigan. She has been researching issues of Kazakh diaspora and the migration of Kazakhs from Mongolia to Kazakhstan, and has conducted ethnographic fieldwork with Mongolian Kazakh repatriates in the Almaty region of Kazakhstan and in the Bayan Ulgii Kazakh Autonomous District in Western Mongolia (2006-09). Her research focuses on movement, kinship, and hospitality as central to the conceptions and practices of belonging and identification among Kazakhs in Inner Asia.