Edward Schatz explores the politics of kin-based clan divisions in the post-Soviet state of Kazakhstan. Drawing from extensive ethnographic and archival research, interviews, and wide-ranging secondary sources, he highlights a politics that poses a two-tiered challenge to current thinking about modernity and Central Asia. First, asking why kinship divisions do not fade from political life with modernization, he shows that the state actually constructs clan relationships by infusing them with practical political and social meaning. By activating the most important quality of clans-their "concealability"-the state is itself responsible for the vibrant politics of these subethnic divisions which has emerged and flourished in post-Soviet Kazakhstan.
Subethnic divisions are crucial to understanding how group solidarities and power relations coexist and where they intersect. But, in a second challenge to current thinking, Schatz argues that clan politics should not be understood simply as competition among primordial groups. Rather, the meanings attributed to clan relationshipsboth the public stigmas and the publicly proclaimed pride in clansare part and parcel of this contest.
Drawing parallels with relevant cases from the Middle East, East and North Africa, and other parts of the former USSR, Schatz concludes that a more appropriate policy may be achieved by making clans a legitimate part of political and social life, rendering them less powerful or corrupt by increasing their transparency.
Political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, policy makers, and others who study state power and identity groups will find a wealth of empirical material and conceptual innovation for discussion and debate.
Edward Schatz is assistant professor of political science at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He has been a visiting fellow at the Davis Center for Russian Studies at Harvard University and at the Kellog Institute for International Affairs at the University of Notre Dame.