Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationToronto, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9673
Approve DateApril 19, 2018
Project TitleBoron, Usmon, U. of Toronto, Toronto, Canada - To aid research on 'Secularity, Aspiration, and Religious Failure in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan,' supervised by Dr. Amira Mittermaier
USMON BORON, then a graduate student at University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, was awarded a grant in April 2018 to aid research on ‘Secularity, Aspiration, and Religious Failure in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan,’ supervised by Dr. Amira Mittermaier. In the 1920s the Soviet state began forcefully secularizing Muslim-majority Central Asia. By the beginning of WWII, the state closed down most mosques in the region, eradicated traditional legal and educational institutions, and marginalized Islamic practices of ethical self-cultivation (i.e., the five daily prayers, veiling, fasting). Nevertheless, most Central Asians continued to believe in God and identify as Muslims, and despite being alienated from legal and theological aspects of the Islamic tradition, they held on to Islamic life-cycle rituals such as male circumcision, marriage ceremony ( nikah ), and funeral prayer ( janaza ). After the collapse of the USSR, Central Asia witnessed a rise of Islamic pietistic movements that urged lay Muslims to learn the basics of Islamic theology and to fulfil daily ritual obligations. Based on two years of ethnographic research in Northern Kyrgyzstan, this dissertation project examines the living legacy of Soviet secularism against the backdrop of the ongoing Islamic revival. More specifically, it engages with non-observant Muslims belonging to the last Soviet generation, focusing particularly on concepts, sensibilities, and modes of argumentation that constitute the ways they understand Islam and relate to the changing religious landscape of their country.