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CREES Noon Lecture. “Moskvachylyk: Debating Authenticity and Transformation in a Moscow Migrant Community.”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010
12:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB, 1080 S. University

Madeleine Reeves, fellow, ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change, University of Manchester. Sponsors: CREES, CMENAS.

In recent years large numbers of men and women have left Central Asia for metropolitan Russia in search of work. This presentation draws on ethnography amongst a group of migrant workers from southern Kyrgyzstan who are living and working in Moscow to explore the debate that migration generates around moral action in a context of acute social transformation. As in other global settings, transnational migration raises dilemmas for migrants and their families concerning the maintenance of care towards absent parents and children, the appropriate expression of intimacy, and the limits of legitimate accumulation. For migrants from Kyrgyzstan, new trajectories of migration to Russia also raise a host of questions about belonging and distance: about whether or not to seek Russian citizenship and whether to remain in Russia long-term. This presentation takes local discussion around the meaning and referents of moskvachylyk – a term that denotes the (potentially corrupting) influence of ‘playing Muscovite’ – as a point of entry for exploring these dilemmas. In so doing it argues for attention to the verbal arts and their deployment to joke, mimic, or mock as a means of exploring migration as a field of moral debate.

Madeleine Reeves is an RCUK Research Fellow at the University of Manchester, where she teaches social anthropology. She studied at the University of Cambridge as an undergraduate and received her MA in the social sciences from the University of Chicago in 2000. She taught at the American University-Central Asia in Bishkek for two years before returning to Cambridge for an MPhil and PhD in Social Anthropology, awarded in 2008. Her research focuses on three key areas: the remaking of borders after socialism, the social and affective relations that sustain transnational migration, and the “everyday state” in Central Asia. Her current research focuses on transnational labor migration between rural southern Kyrgyzstan and Moscow and the role of this new migration in the transformation of citizenship after Soviet collapse. She is also completing a book manuscript based on her doctoral research on everyday ‘border work’ in the Ferghana Valley, due for publication with Cornell in 2011.