Mobility and Change in the Novels of Chinghiz Aitmatov

Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room, 1219 International Affairs Building (420 W 118th St)

Please join us for a talk with Cholpon Turdalieva, Professor in the Anthropology Program at the American University of Central Asia, as part of the Celebrating Chinghiz Aitmatov at 90 event series.

Cholpon Turdalieva will present a paper analysing the concept of mobility and movement in the works of Chingiz Aitmatov with regard to spatial geography and development of transport in the Soviet era. As Aitmatov argues about the global problems of humanity, namely evil, lawlessness, and betrayal, he also gives his ‘recipes’ for solving those problems—through building peace and developing love and responsibility.

Although mobility itself was not the direct object of the writer, it becomes obvious through the actions and attitudes of the characters of his novels and stories that they are socially mobile; their relationships are dynamic and they are eager for change. The dynamics and the quality of mobility of Jamila, Edygei, Kallistratov, Momun, Abdumitalip, and even such negative characters as Orozkul, Boston, and Sabitzhan, are transmitted through various types of movement—camels, horses, cars, railway, steamship, and even space rockets. In the 1950s and 1980s, these modes of transportation contributed to the development of the socialist economy of Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia, and in Aitmatov's works signal a climate of expansiveness, new perspectives and change.

The characters of Aitmatov’s novels—whether they are humans or animals, geographical or natural objects—are all on the move, traveling from place to place. Their movement is not a simple development in a physical or geographical setting but always takes place with conceptual meaning and importance.

Aitmatov also uses time and space in constructing the harmonic relationships between different locations like steppes and mountains, a village and the city, Earth and extra-terrestrial civilizations. These places and their inhabitants are in constant interaction and mobility; they communicate with each other in everyday life, and thereby repeatedly reflect the eternal truth and philosophical greatness of his words “The day lasts more than a hundred years.”

Cholpon Turdalieva is a Professor in the Anthropology Program at the American University of Central Asia. She received the Candidate of Historical Sciences and Doctor of Historical Sciences degrees from the Institute of History at the National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic. Her main research focusing on the history and culture of the Kyrgyz in the works of the 19th and early 20th century travelers has resulted in two monographs and more than thirty articles.

Turdalieva is currently dealt with the research on gendered mobilities in Bishkek in the space of the most popular form of public transport: the minibus, or 'marshrutka.' As the means by which women often access various important sites of daily life, the marshrutka itself is a site of negotiation and interaction. Utilizing theories of mobility and empirical data, she argues that marshrutkas are spaces that can give rise to two dichotomous conditions: positive marshrutka experiences may increase the social mobility of female passengers and subsequently increase social empowerment and influence, while negative ones can provide the grounds for social exclusion and gender inequality.

This event is part of the three-day series Celebrating Chinghiz Aitmatov at 90 organized by the Harriman Institute, the Kyrgyz American Foundation, and the American University of Central Asia. The event series also includes an international conference, a photography exhibit and musical performance, a book talk, and film screenings.