Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Director of Advising and Professional Development, University of Colorado / Boulder

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, City University of New York (CUNY) / Graduate Center
From Perestroika to the Polka: The Politicization and Everyday Life of “Germanness” in Kazakhstan

Residing throughout Kazakhstan is a population of nearly 300,000 Germans whose ancestors either immigrated there in the 19th and 20th centuries, or were deported there from western Russia during World War II. Since the USSR's collapse, many of them have left Kazakhstan for their purported ancestral homeland, but once there other Germans perceive them as Russians or Asians, devoid of "Germanness." Alarmed by this lack, German-funded NGOs such as the Technical Cooperation Society {GTZ) have deployed personnel and money to Kazakhstan with the belief that language and cultural education can reconnect these erstwhile Germans to their ethnic roots and stem their need to seek the same in Germany. Kazakhstan's government officially sanctioned this effort by authorizing a similar indigenous organization known as "Rebirth" and establishing the Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakhstan, which promotes multiculturalism in cooperation with the GTZ and Rebirth. The GTZ believes it can moderate the desire for migration by providing authentic ethnic identity for Germans, while Kazakhstan's government expects this increasingly ethnicized minority to contribute to its multicultural political image. My research considers how these institutions create and implement ethnic-based projects and how their ethnicized subjects react to them. In doing so, I will examine how ethnic Germans might utilize alternatives to ethnic identity, such as non-ethnicized subjectivities to accomplish objectives that have little to do with Germanness, political or otherwise. I will therefore question the prevalence of ethnicity, nationalism, and identity posited by a multitude of anthropological literature designating identity as a facilitator of political projects. I ultimately seek to understand the limits of ethnicity as political action and the alternative objectives of acting ethnic.