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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies URPP Asia and Europe (2006–2017)

Social Citizenship from Below and the Making of State in Kyrgyzstan: Migrants Making a Living in the Squatter Settlements of Bishkek

Responsible for the doctoral project: Eliza Isabaeva, M.A.
Funded by: Humer-Foundation for Academic Talent
Project duration: September 2011 – August 2014
Prof. Dr. Peter Finke, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology/URPP Asia and Europe
Research Field: Norms and Social Order(s)


Migratory current within Kyrgyzstan is directed toward the capital and biggest city of the country – Bishkek – in search of employment and better life. However limited resources, struggling economy and a relatively expensive rental payment for private housing have prevented the city to absorb the population influx. Thus internal migrants are forced to seek low-cost living in the outskirts of Bishkek with very poor or absent infrastructure and social services. They rent small rooms from “rich” slum landlords and live under fear of getting evicted for any reason.

The proposed study will take place in squatter settlements in Bishkek. In the aftermath of two popular revolts, Bishkek has grown and expanded – both demographic and geographic wise. One observes numerous new settlements which popped up on the edges of the city and quickly mushroomed within a short time. People refer to them as novostroika (literally: new construction) in Russian and konush in Kyrgyz languages. Thus, internal migration and the recent political situation in the country have served as independent variables of the emergence of new novostroikas. The primary emphasis of this study will be on the state-citizen relationship and it aims to explore everyday experience of squatters and their understanding of governance.

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