Modern Clan Politics

The Power of "Blood" in Kazakhstan and Beyond

Edward Schatz

  • Published: 2004
  • Subject Listing: Middle East Studies; History
  • Bibliographic information: 280 pp., 5 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Jackson School Publications in International Studies
  • Contents

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 relationships - both the public stigmas and the publicly proclaimed pride in clans - are 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.

"Schatz's analysis is all the more important in an age in which virtually everyone agrees that globalization is the most significant feature of the age and, consequently, the unexpected endurance of bonds of clanship at a level below the state is indeed counter intuitive."
-Gregory W. Gleason, University of New Mexico
A Note on Transliteration
Introduction: Modern Clan Politics

Part One The Reproduction of Clans
1. Kinship and Modernity
2. Nomads, Diffuse Authority, and Sovietization
3. Two Faces of Soviet Power
4. Continuity and Change after the Soviet Collapse

Part Two The Political Dynamic of Informal Ties
5. Clan Conflict
6. Clan Megaconflict

Part Three Managing Clans
7. A Vicious Cycle? Kinship and Political Change

Conclusions: Kinship and "Normal" Politics
Appendix: Methods

"Modern Clan Politics is one of the best books to have been published on the state-society interaction in Central Asia. . . . A must-read for anyone who wishes to understand contemporary Kazakhstan."
-American Journal of Sociology

"In its insights and its material, Schatz's volume brings clarity to a topic on Kazakhstan often shrouded in controversy and speculation. The author succeeds in the ambitious combination of fieldwork, theoretical frameworks and a comparative approach and makes for compelling reading suitable to specialists and non-specialists alike."
-Europe-Asia Studies

"This book presents a refreshing contribution to the contemporary study of identity and nationalism. [It] provides important insights into the invisible mechanisms of politics in transitional postcommunist societies and deserves an enthusiastic welcome. It is an indispensable reference for specialists and all others who are interested in the subject."
-Slavic Review

"Highly original and refreshingly interdisciplinary. Schatz skillfully blends ethnography, archival research, interviews, and focus groups to explain the role of clan identities in an arena that has transitioned from an appendage of the USSR to an independent nation-state. By showing us how ethnicity as clan network permeates the architecture of the postsocialist state and society, Schatz's study is a welcome addition to a growing body of research about the nexus of state power and local experience."
-American Anthropologist

"Schatz's book gives us a fresh perspective on the dynamics of clan politics in Kazakhstan. It is extremely well researched and well written and certainly should be a core text in any course on modern Central Asian politics or ethnicity. [A] very innovative, well-done study."
-The Russian Review