CASI RESEARCH SEMINAR: "Negotiating Kyrgyz Nationhood: Of History Textbooks' and History Teachers' Attitudes towards the Soviet Past"

February 17, 2016

February 17, 2016

Damira Umetbaeva, PhD, Associate Professor, Journalism and Mass Communications Department, AUCA

Abstract: In my dissertation I analysed representations of Soviet socialism in post-Soviet history textbooks and in the life stories of history teachers in Kyrgyzstan. I analysed, first, how the post-Soviet Kyrgyz state reconstructs its Soviet past on the level of official discourse, particularly in school history textbooks, and second, how history teachers – as professionals and private citizens – relate to the official discourse when making sense of the Soviet past. Answers to these questions contribute to a better understanding of state- and nation-building processes in post- Soviet Kyrgyzstan both in terms of how official discourse is formed and how subjects and official discourse interact.

Based on the analysis of history textbooks, first, I argue that discourse about Soviet socialism in the post-Soviet Kyrgyz history textbooks is ambivalent and contradictory and there is not a new hegemonic discourse about the Soviet past. At the same time, I argue that there is a hegemonic discourse of the Kyrgyz nation-and-state and their modernization in the post-Soviet Kyrgyz history textbooks, which, however, is also ambivalent and contradictory.

I argue that history teachers like history textbooks produced ambivalent and contradictory images of the Soviet past. Moreover, I claim that they have appropriated the hegemonic discourse of the Kyrgyz nation-and-state and their modernization. However, due to the factors of nostalgia and status loss, self-justification or a particular way of appropriation of the official discourse they introduce internal displacements to the hegemonic discourse.

Short bio: Damira Umetbaeva has defended her PhD dissertation in 2015 at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt/Oder, Germany. From 2008 until 2012 she was a research fellow at the Georg-Eckert-Institute for International Textbook Research in Brunswick, Germany. At the institute she was embedded with her PhD project “Negotiating Kyrgyz Nationhood: Of History Textbooks’ and History Teachers’ Attitudes Towards the Soviet Past” in the bigger project funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and titled: “The Institutionalization of Cultural Models of Interpretation: History Teachers as Mediators between Collective and Individual Memory in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Lithuania.”

Damira Umetbaeva has publications in peer-reviewed international academic journals, one of them winning Best Graduate Paper Award in 2014 from the Central Asia Program at the George Washington University, USA. Since January 2016 Damira Umetbaeva is an associate professor at the Journalism and Mass Communications Department of the American University of Central Asia. She is also a research consultant for several international organizations in Kyrgyzstan. Ms. Umetbaeva has launched new research projects on informal lending and inter-ethnic relations between Kyrgyz and Russians in Kyrgyzstan and in preparation of publications of the research results. Her main research interests include: Politics of Memory Practices, Textbook Research, Relationship between Education and Nation-State Building Processes, Discourse Theory and Methods, Oral History and Biographical Interviews, Anthropology of the State, Minorities and Economic Biographies.

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