Kazakh-Speaking University Students Proverbial Perspectives on Community: Circulation Studies and Frame Analysis in Tandem

Erik Aasland

Student Anthropologist


Download PDF –  Aasland 2010

Abstract: Past attempts at using proverbs for cultural analysis have provided questionable results. There has been an overreliance on comparable proverbs from other cultures (Mieder 1981) or the search for “underlying” static cultural traits (Bartlotti 2000). The current paper explores the potential of using frame analysis (Goffman 1974; Johnston 2002; Snow 1986) and circulation studies (Spitulnik 2001) as methods better suited to explicating societal change. The two methods are complementary: circulation studies aiding understanding of the process of proverb use; frame analysis allowing for insight on the meaning of familiar proverbs. Rather than explore perspectives of the culture in general, I selected college students in Almaty, Kazakhstan as the group to be investigated. The current generation of students in Kazakhstan is unique, since they have only known an independent and Post-Soviet fatherland. As they have grown up, the country has been in the throes of redefining itself as a society. Part of this process has been reestablishing Kazakh as the national language. Field research was carried out among university students at the Kazakh National Technical University in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Surveys provided information about the most familiar proverbs out of the proverb set concerning “community”. Analysis of the survey results showed that the population functions using proverbs as a speech community, a group able to communicate with each other effectively. Surveys and proverb encounter reenactments will provide the type of data necessary for circulation studies and frame analysis to establish a baseline concerning proverbial perspectives concerning “community” among Kazakh-speaking college students.



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