Normative Pluralism in Kyrgyzstan: National, Community, and Individual Perspectives
Merrell, David E.
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<bold>Current Knowledge</bold>: Normative pluralism (plural sources of social ordering) has existed in in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan ) since pre-Tsarist times. Respected male elders (<italic>aksakal</italic>s), for example, led nomadic groups where customary laws prevailed and sedentary groups where Islamic laws prevailed. During Tsarist times, Kyrgyz <italic>aksakal</italic> elders’ courts processed disputes alongside Islamic and Russian courts. The Soviets abolished such courts. In post-Soviet times, Kyrgyzstan incorporated a reinvented version of Kyrgyz <italic>aksakal</italic> courts into the state judicial system. Today, however, some people reject their authority. This state manipulation and popular rejection of a Kyrgyz normative order reflects how majority populations shape normative pluralism in Kyrgyzstan. <bold>Research Gap</bold>: Most English-language works explore normative pluralism in Kyrgyzstan from a state / majority perspective (e.g. Tsarist, Soviet, and Kyrgyzstani manipulation of majority Kyrgyz <italic>aksakal</italic> elders’ councils). Few studies explore how minority groups or women shape normative pluralism. Therefore, several research questions remain unanswered. Do minority groups in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan maintain their own normative orders? Do they rely upon male elders as sources of authority? If so, do some people now reject their authority and why? Do women also act as sources of authority? <bold>Contribution of this Dissertation</bold>: Based on original fieldwork, this dissertation helps to answer these questions on a national, community, and individual level for minority Uyghurs in post-Soviet northern Kyrgyzstan. Part I explores how the “Ittipak” Uyghur Society of Kyrgyzstan created and maintains throughout Kyrgyzstan a normative order based on respected male Uyghur elders. Part II explores why a community of Uyghurs in Toshtemir City (pseudonym) rejected that order in their city in northern Kyrgyzstan. It argues that the rejection occurred due to a normative cleavage between the two groups. Part III explores how one prominent Uyghur Muslim woman in Toshtemir exerts normative authority in the way that she mediates bride kidnapping cases. <bold>Conclusion</bold>: A better understanding of how Uyghurs shape norms and normative orders will help complete the picture of normative pluralism in Kyrgyzstan. This is important given ethnic tensions in Kyrgyzstan. It also contributes to a paucity of English-language research on Uyghurs in Central Asia.
- Law