Last Days of Summerschool in Varzob, Tajikistan

The Summerschool comes to an end. In the last days our participants have been busy conducting interviews and training their skills in participatory observation. Prepared by Philipp Schröder and Barbara Christophe, our guest lecturer from the Georg Eckert Institute for International Text-Book Research, first our students went in groups to different locations in Dushanbe for observation (Church, Café, Avtovokzal (bus station), Park). The second part of the practical research was made up of interviews with selected respondents. Our groups of students, combining different language abilities and social research experiences, met with a teacher, a hotel guard, with a babushka and her daughter in law, and with a (former) labour migrant and conducted biographical-narrative interviews. Both practical units were followed by presentations to all Summerschool participants and discussions about the experienced insights from / and limitations of our research methods. Despite our short time frame we have been able to look deeper into conceptions of modernity and tradition in Tajikistan, into the relationship between different religious groups, the patterns of regionalism and ethnicity in everyday life and perceptions of the Soviet past and Islam and Christianity today. Surprisingly for many in our group, harsh distinctions or divisions – may they be regional, confessional or ethnic – are mostly absent, and, what is more, such distinctions seem to be blurry and often underlying conceptions rather broad or even contradictory. People in Tajikistan, we preliminary concluded, are coping with the hardships of the present by flexibly employing diverse notions of social distinctions, and most often not engaging into radical separations for the sake of getting the everyday business done.

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