Living Language in Kazakhstan

The Dialogic Emergence of an Ancestral Worldview

Outstanding work. Living Language in Kazakhstan is a rare attempt to capture what the author names as the 'affective landscapes' of Kazakh spirituality. By focusing on the construction of intergenerational relationships within families and broader communities, Dubuisson demonstrates that the spirits of deceased ancestors play a central role in Kazakh social life, constituting a particular worldview historically rooted in an Inner Asia's belief system.
Saulesh Yessenova, University of Calgary

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Eva-Marie Dubuisson provides a fascinating anthropological inquiry into the deeply ingrained presence of ancestors within the cultural, political, and spiritual discourse of Kazakhs. In a climate of authoritarianism and economic uncertainty, many people in this region turn to their forebearers for care, guidance, and advice, invoking them on a daily basis. This “living language” creates a powerful link to the past and a stable foundation for the present. Through Dubuisson's participatory, observational, and lived experience among Kazakhs, we witness firsthand the public performances and private rituals that show how memory and identity are sustained through an oral tradition of invoking ancestors. This ancestral dialogue sustains a unifying worldview by mediating questions of faith and morality, providing role models, and offering a mechanism for socio-political critique, change, and meaning-making. Looking beyond studies of Islam or heritage alone, Dubuisson provides fresh insights into understanding the Kazakh worldview that will serve students, researchers, GMOs, and policymakers in the region.

about the author

Eva Marie Dubuisson

Eva-Marie Dubuisson is assistant professor of anthropology at Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey.

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Eva Marie Dubuisson