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Making sense of change: An urban ethnography of middle-class narratives of uncertainty in Almaty, Kazakhstan

PARKYN-SMITH, ALEXANDER,JAMES (2020) Making sense of change: An urban ethnography of middle-class narratives of uncertainty in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This urban ethnography focuses on the new generation of young urban middle-class people in Almaty, Kazakhstan, who have grown up after the Soviet Union. It examines how they respond to the dramatic social, economic, political, and environmental changes their country has undergone since 1991. A close analysis of their distinct way of life, in comparison to both their parents’ generation and the wider public, provides an insight into the social strategies they employ to make sense of change in the context of their everyday lives. This research, based on fieldwork carried out between 2014 and 2017, is an original study, addressing the question: How do Almaty’s urban middle- class population make sense of change?

I argue that young urban middle-class people in Almaty, Kazakhstan perform a public narrative of their lives, providing their everyday existence with a sense of structure, stability, and coherence in the face of past societal change and the risk of further change in the future. However, ruptures in everyday life—such as a flood, earthquake, currency devaluation, or even a marriage—expose vulnerabilities of this young generation that are only discussed in private contexts. To overcome their growing uncertainty about the reliability of public narratives, my informants increasingly rely on their trusted social relations of kinship and friendship networks. When these channels are exhausted, my informants turn to alternative discursive techniques, such as rumour, to discuss private concerns in public contexts without undermining their own public narratives.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Urban ethnography; narratives of uncertainty; middle class; risk; making sense of change; vulnerability; gossip; rumour; Central Asia; Kazakhstan; Almaty
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:28 Sep 2020 11:22

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