Welcome to Our new portfolio

Adina Sulumbekova, Nargiza Maksatova, Aidai Anvarbekkyzy, & Salkynai Emilbekova

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

The givers and bearers of a name constantly look to both past and future to (re)interpret how that name fits into their understanding of the present. The value of names and their constantly negotiated meanings are well known to the citizens of contemporary Central Asia, who, over the past century, have lived through Soviet iconoclastic socialism, Russian and Soviet imperialism, and more recent national and Islamic revivalism. For both the Soviet state and newly independent (as of 1991) Central Asian states, names and renaming have offered opportunities to simultaneously throw off the weight of the past, restore tradition, and imagine alternate futures. For ordinary Central Asian citizens, names have also served these functions, but often much more as well. While citizens too have felt the urge to overcome and reclaim history, they also interpret and sometimes change their names to place themselves in society in ways more complicated than their states’ narrow dichotomy of modernity vs. tradition. To reveal how these naming practices speak to the region’s complex history and society, American University of Central Asia’s oral historians conducted the “My Name, My Story” project, which gathered oral history interviews from AUCA students and community members. Here we have curated those interviews along one theme—“Names and the State”—to show how various respondents have competed to represent themselves through naming with a sometimes demanding and intrusive state that sees itself as the protector of national culture or a creator of orderly modernity.


In The Exhibition: