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Towards a theory of the rough ground: merging the policy and ethnographic frames of religion in the Kyrgyz Republic

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Discussions of Islam present two analytical problems, one of interpretation and another of theory. Regarding interpretation, different frames – policy or ethnographic – for viewing religion influence our bias/understanding of religion and give us different senses of what ‘knowing’ the religion of a particular community means. The related issue is one of theory and connects to the problem of theorising movement: how people navigate their religious lives is not linear but much more random, related to events, and at times reified by (though always engaging with) the assumptions of policy agendas and the ethnographic imagination. Exploring implications that the policy and ethnographic frames have for Muslims in the Kyrgyz Republic, I argue that in synthesising the impact of different frames of analysis, a ‘theory of the rough ground’, while anything but neat, better portrays life as it is experienced locally.
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Keywords: Central Asia; Islam; Kyrgyzstan; bias; ethnography; policy; religion; social navigation; subjectivity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 230 S. Bouquet St, Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, 15260, USA

Publication date: January 2, 2014

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