Essentialist Legacies and Shifting Identities: Language in Central Asian Nation-Building

Zhou, Grace

"In my attempt to trace the complexities of identity in Central Asia, I first discuss the theoretical background of nation-building and language planning, then the historical essentializing processes of nationality during Tsarist and Soviet times, both of official policy and native involvement. I then bring the discussion into post-Soviet times by examining how essentialist Soviet legacies are maintained in independent Kyrgyzstan. Finally, I look at a case study from my field research in Osh. Osh, as a reflective microcosm of
Central Asian society, illustrates a linguistically dynamic conception of identity. While explicit, verbal identification is significant to notions of ethnicity, the coexistence of multiple languages within the same sphere of usage has produced an interesting phenomenon, that of habitual code-switching. In the last section of this paper, I address code-switching, along with other everyday sentiments and attitudes, in an attempt to dig under official discourse and break the essentialist model."--from page 148

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The Journal of Politics and Society

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Helvidius Group
Helvidius Group of Columbia University
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February 12, 2014