Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Stanford University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2016
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Stanford University
Secrets of the Trade: Intimate Transactions and Distributive Markets in Southern Kyrgyzstan

In post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, women who engage in mercantile work are often haunted by rumors of illicit intimate exchanges, even suspicions of involvement in sex work. At the same time, many of these women do use intimate relations to navigate unregulated market spaces, access resources, and circulate goods and wealth. To understand these tensions, I approach the markets of post-Soviet Central Asia not only as sites of economic livelihood-making, but also as morally contentious spaces for the articulation of social and political futures. Over 15-months of ethnographic research, I will investigate how female merchants wedged between Russia's Eurasian Economic Union and China's New Silk Road Initiative build or break intimate ties to access goods and capital across social and geographic boundaries. As they negotiate the moral anxieties surrounding their activities, they often strategically blur the lines between market exchange and sexual transaction. How do these new market intimacies reshape existing gender and social hierarchies? My project situates the literature on intimate, affective labor and the political economy of distribution in the context of post-Soviet socioeconomic transition. I will explore how the uneasy entanglements of intimacy in the market sphere give rise to alternative pathways for the distribution of goods, services, and wealth. However, I also seek to understand how these relational economies might deepen gendered inequalities, social hierarchies, and ethnic divisions.