Anthropology of Work, Employment, Slavery, Entrepreneurship, Pastoralism, Central Asia, Socialist Labor, Postsocialism
This article examines competing and converging discourses on the value of labor in rural Kyrgyzstan. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2006 and 2010, I use case studies of a woman pastoralist, an agricultural entrepreneur, and a Muslim cleric to demonstrate the competing frames of valuation that current work practices are oriented towards. I show how these frames of valuation are situated in the complex history of work in postsocialist Central Asia. The article demonstrates that formally distinct and conflicting ideologies such as socialist and capitalist ideas of labor, concepts of service to kin, and Islamic practice all converge in their emphasis on the moral value of hard work. I show that the main distinction made about different forms and evaluations of work is the kind of collectivity that the labor contributes to. These distinctions allow a greater understanding of the work choices and judgments Kyrgyzstani citizens make, as well as revealing work as an important nexus of personhood. In English, extended summary in Russian.