Much scholarship of any region focuses on the perceived problems that hold back a population. Central Asia is no exception, as it is a region with political, economic, and environmental problems that seem to keep Central Asians from a "better" future. Alongside all the struggles of life, however, are relationships of meaning and wellness that contribute to a "life worth living." Recognizing the struggles of everyday life, contributors to this book explore how people navigate relationships to find meaning, how elders attempt to re-establish morality, and how development workers pursue new futures. Such futures centre around the role of family, friends, and meaningful employment in yielding contentment; and the influence of Islam, ethnicity, and hospitality on community.
The first regional collection to take well-being as a frame of analysis, the contributors show how visions, spaces, and cosmologies of well-being inform everyday life in Central Asia. This volume will appeal not only to those interested in Central Asia, but more broadly to anyone concerned with how taking well-being into account better captures the complex realities of life in any region.
This book was published as a special issue of Central Asian Survey.
David W. Montgomery is Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of Program Development for CEDAR-Communities Engaging with Difference and Religion.
1. Introduction: Negotiating well-being in Central Asia Visions of well-being 2. Ordering ideals: accomplishing well-being in a Kyrgyz cooperative of elders 3. How to build a better future? Kyrgyzstani development workers and the `knowledge transfer' strategy Spaces of well-being 4. `The state starts from the family': peace and harmony in Tajikistan's eastern Pamirs 5. Relations made over tea: reflections on a meaningful life in a Central Asian mountain village 6. Sewing to satisfaction: craft-based entrepreneurs in contemporary Kyrgyzstan Cosmologies of well-being 7. Anxiety, order and the other: well-being among ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks 8. Even honey may become bitter when there is too much of it: Islam and the struggle for a balanced existence in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan 9. Discovering a sense of well-being through the revival of Islam: profiles of Kazakh imams in Western Mongolia