Radford, “Contesting and negotiating religion and ethnic identity”

January 28, 2014

Radford, David.  2014.  “Contesting and negotiating religion and ethnic identity in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan.”  Central Asian Survey (Published online 23 January 2014).

Abstract: Post-Soviet Central Asia has inherited a set of circumstances conducive to the revitalization of religion. The renewal of Muslim awareness and identity in Central Asia may not be surprising, but the growth of Christianity is, especially in its Protestant form within indigenous Muslim communities. This article, based on qualitative field research, reviews one example of this development: the process of conversion to Protestant Christianity among Muslim Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan. A prominent aspect of this social movement has been the ways in which Kyrgyz Christians have entered into a dynamic process of engaging with issues of identity and what it means to be Kyrgyz – a process that has sought to locate their new Christian religious identity within, rather than on the margins of, familial and ethnic identity, and one that challenges the normative understanding of Kyrgyz identity: that to be Kyrgyz is to be Muslim. While providing the context for Kyrgyz conversion, this discussion primarily focuses on the way Kyrgyz Christians utilize a number of different discursive strategies to contest normative Kyrgyz identity constructs and to legitimize a Kyrgyz Christian identity.

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