Activists for a Better Future: a Comparison of Muslim Missions, Late Soviet and Contemporary Development Work in Kyrgyzstan
Dr. Jeanne Féaux de la Croix
This ethnographic study investigates different versions of the struggle for a better future in Kyrgyzstan. Firstly, it compares the activities of development workers and Muslim missionaries in Central Asia. Although these activists tend to rhetorically dis¬tance themselves and their "faiths" from each other, they share a common concern in persuading people to adopt new practices and ideas for a better life. Compar¬ing their "faiths," methods, and their public reception can teach us how ideas travel through Central Asia and beyond. Secondly, the project asks how the experiences of activists and their audiences, their ideals of progress, and their knowledge-making relate to practices in the late Soviet period. Such a comparison illuminates peo¬ple's understanding of voluntarism, social activism, and how to achieve change for the better in Kyrgyzstan. This ethnography explores the links and disconnections of activist projects between the Soviet and post-Soviet period, as well as between development and mission work.