Set up seminar in Osh oblast, 2010

Date: April, 2-4,  2010.

Venue: Osh State University, Department of History and Law
Language: Kyrgyz

Seminar goals:

  • To create a workgroup for 5- month- long research project on sacred sites of the Osh province;
  • To make the participants familiar with the concept of anthropological field research and methodology;
  • To make the participants familiar with the main aspects of the research project;
  • To discuss the terms, conditions and other administrative matters of the research;
  • To make a presentation on Aigine’s website on traditional knowledge.

Lecturers and moderators:

  • Aida Egemberdieva, a senior  researcher, Aigine CRC
  • Dr. Madeline Rivs, a researcher, University of Manchester
  • Guljan Kudabaeva, a researcher, Aigine CRC
  • Cholponai Usubalieva-Grischuk, a researcher, Aigine CRC

Materials developed for the seminar:

  • The program of the seminar
  • A guidance on a method of field research
  • Documentary movies:  «Nyldy Ata» and «Boz Tektir»
  • The book «The sacred sites of Issyk-Kul: spiritual powers, pilgrimage, and art»
  • A presentation «An introduction to an anthropological research»

Short information about the research project:
In 2010, Aigine CRC came up with an initiative to conduct a new research project in the Osh province. The main goal of that project was to collect emic material on:

  • sacred sites;
  • traditional knowledge.

Initial stage:
Aigine CRC got in touch with the teachers of the OshSU Department of History and Law such as Sanjar Tajimatov, Chynykan Satybaldieva and Mahburat Sultanova. In March, 2010, with the help of the teachers, 50 surveys were sent out to the students of the university and 42 was filled out and returned to Aigine CRC.  After a thorough scrutiny, 22 student surveys were selected by the staff of the CRC . Those students were invited to take part at the first work seminar which was conducted in April, in Osh city. Initially it was planned that upon the completion of the seminar, 14 most interested and skilled participants would be selected to compose a workgroup, however, 19 participants showed great deal of interest and skillfulness that it was agreed to expand the workgroup up to 19 members.  Thus, the following students were selected (and among them there is a second year student who became a local coordinator of the Osh workgroup):

  1. Jetimish kyzy Aijamal, 2nd year student (the local coordinator of the workgroup)
  2. Azizilla uulu Islambek, 1st year student
  3. Jenishbek uulu Askarbek, 1st year student
  4. Myrzatoro kyzy Elnura, 1st year student
  5. Manap kyzy Eliza,  1st year student
  6. Nurbai kyzy Cholponai, 1st year student
  7. Malik kyzy Begimai, 1st year student
  8. Nurkamilova Baktygul, 1st year student
  9. Turatbek kyzy Aiperi, 1st year student
  10. Joroeva Nuraim, 1st year student
  11. Bekbolotova Begimai, 1st year student
  12. Razakova Gulzat, 1st year student
  13. Tokurova Ykybyl, 2nd year student
  14. Azatilla kyzy Gulzat, 1st year student
  15. Asylbek kyzy Akinai, 2nd year student
  16. Mamasaliev Rysmende, 1st year student
  17. Ryskulova Kadicha, 2nd year student
  18. Jumashbekova Gulnar, 1st year student
  19. Isaak kyzy Nurjamal, 1st year student

Dr. Madeline Rivs made a presentation on anthropological field research in Russian language. The presentation invoked a live discussion and matters concerning a field research as well as anthropology in general have been discussed.    The participants were interested in learning about research ethics, sampling techniques and nuances of interviewing. All the questions asked by the participants were constructive and well-formulated that proves that the participants were sincerely interested in the training and eager to learn as much as possible.

The second day put its focus on a practical side of the research. The students were to gather information about Sulaiman – Too: firstly, by interviewing the guardian of that place, Alymbek Ajy, and then by interviewing a random visitor of that place.  Such a practice provided the Aigine staff members with an opportunity to observe the each participant working and provide him, if necessary, with an advice on how to conduct an interview and participant observation.  All information gathered that day was classified, analyzed and prepared for usage. This material can be considered as a preliminary result of the seminar.  The participants had a certain idea about the sacred sites, they had heard different stories about sacred sites nearby their villages before and that’s why this topic was not new for the participants.   We lay our hopes on the participants and believe that they will be able to gather all the necessary information on sacred sites in the Osh province.

At the end of the seminar we chose one of the participants to be a coordinator of the workgroup who would be responsible for the work conducted by the members of the workgroup. These are the responsibilities of the coordinator:

  • Maintaining communications with Aigine CRC staff and reporting on the work progress every week;
  • Immediate work with the members of the workgroup and holding meetings with them on a regular basis;
  • Monitoring of work done by each workgroup member;
  • Gathering and classification of all materials, obtained by the workgroup  members;
  • Composition of a list of sacred sites of Osh and its updating on a regular basis;
  • Responsibility for technical equipment provided by Aigine CRC for  the research purposes;
  • Responsibility for financial issues concerning the research activities of the workgroup members.

The Osh province consists of 7 administrative and territorial units and all those units are represented in the workgroup. On the first stage of the research the workgroup members will start with Osh town and neighbor districts, then, the remote districts will be covered as well. The coordinator is to submit reports from 10th till  13th of each month while the members of the workgroup are to submit their reports before 10th of each month.

First 3 months of the research will be dedicated to gathering information about sacred sites while following 2 month will be devoted to gathering information on traditional knowledge of Kyrgyz people. .  There might be additional changes and corrections to these rules.

Advantages and disadvantages of the participants.
All the participants of the seminar are the students of the Department of History and Law. Due to their major, some of the participants had an experience in conducting ethnographical field researches. However, the participants had no idea about conducting an anthropological research and had poor knowledge about research ethics.

At first the participants were having hard times understanding that a researcher should put away his/her point of view and opinions while interviewing and conducting a research and should try to see the world with the eyes of a person being interviewed. The participants had some questions regarding this point and it invoked a lively and fruitful discussion. It was deliberately invoked because every participant had his/her own idea about a certain sacred site and during a discussion everybody was trying to convince the rest of the workgroup that his/her point of view is the only correct one.

The presentation of two movies invoked a lively exchange of opinions which were very diverse. It seemed to some of the participants that rituals conducted at the sacred sites filmed in the movie were “wrong”. Also the participants raised a question about religious beliefs of the Aigine CRC.

Despite these moments mentioned afore, all the participants of the seminar grasped the information of the seminar quickly. Lively discussions, involvement and interest of the participants made us sure that the collaboration throughout the research period will be fruitful.  We believe that all the participants and the workgroup members will collaborate in studying and restoration of a pilgrimage practice in Kyrgyzstan.

Results after a 4 month work in the Osh province.
The workgroup members were very active and full of enthusiasm while conducting the research. While being at the seminar they had collected the necessary information about Sulaiman – Too. During the next few month (April – May), Aigine CRC got information about 48 sacred sites in the Osh province.

At this moment the workgroup would be wrapping up the work on sacred sites and traditional knowledge, if there had been no outburst of civil riots in the southern part of the republic. In June, the work was ceased until the situation would get stable. Recently, the workgroup members resumed their work in their villages, however, they were not able to send them to us due to lack of Internet access.