Collections > UNC Chapel Hill Undergraduate Honors Theses Collection > "Is Hijab for Kazakh Girls?": Shifting the Borders of Kazakh Nationhood and the Modern in Almaty, Kazakhstan

In this thesis, I will focus on how women embody shifting definitions of Kazakh identity within a complex, post-colonial, fragmented national context. I draw on a body of feminist geopolitical and geographic literature that has emphasized the importance of considering scale and embodied practices in an analysis of geopolitical trends (Dowler and Sharpe 2001, Fluri 2006, Holloway 2006, Smith 2009). I examine women’s veiling as a socio-spatial practice that reflects local and national discourse on the nature of the relationship between the state and its citizens (Gokariksel 2009), and as a performance of discourse on and reaction to hegemonic corporeal modernity that has predominated in Kazakhstan’s wealthiest spaces since independence (Fluri 2011). Through an analysis of interviews with women, mass media and ethnographic participation in Almaty, Kazakhstan, I argue that women’s choices to veil or not are geopolitical, central to competing visions and formations of Kazakh identity and how Kazakhstan situates itself in relation to its past, its neighbors, and the world.