Werner, Cynthia individual record
Professor and Head

Social Networks, Gifts, and Bribes

I conducted 24 months of fieldwork in a rural region of southern Kazakhstan during the initial post-Soviet transition. I argue that rural households coped with market dynamics by maintaining strong household networks through regular exchanges of gifts and labor, and that these networks should be regarded as a key aspect of their household survival strategy. I also describe the ubiquity of "gifts" and "bribes" in Kazakhstan, and argued that some "gifts" function in part as "bribes."

Women in Central Asia

In addition to writing about the lives of rural merchant women, I have written about bride kidnapping, one of the "hot" gender topics for this region. I argue that this practice increased in frequency after the fall of the Soviet Union (with the rise of nationalism, corruption, and economic disruption). I also argue how discourses of shame and tradition play a role in perpetuating non-consensual bride kidnapping.

Nuclear Testing, Radiation Victims, and Radioactive Waste

This research project includes interviews with three groups: rural residents living near the site, medical doctors, and nuclear scientists at Kazakhstan's National Nuclear Center. We argue that these groups have very different understandings of radiation's impact on human health. Our research also looks at how memories and narratives of nuclear testing have been shaped by the politics of aid and nation-building projects in the present.

Kazakhstan's Repatriation Program

Since the early 1990s, nearly half of Mongolia's Kazakh population has migrated to Kazakhstan through a government repatriation program. We argue that women are more likely than men to experience significant geographical separations from kin due to cultural preferences for exogamy and patrilocal residence. We also argue that citizenship policies for repatriated Kazakhs have shifted over time, reflecting an inherent tension between neo-liberal and nation-building projects.

selected publications
Academic Articles20
  • Werner, C (2019). Living language in Kazakhstan: the dialogic emergence of an ancestral worldview. Central Asian Survey. 38(1), 150-151.
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  • Barcus, H., & Werner, C. (2017). Choosing to Stay: (Im)Mobility Decisions Amongst Mongolias Ethnic Kazakhs. Globalizations. 14(1), 32-50.
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  • Barcus, H., & Werner, C. (2010). The Kazakhs of Western Mongolia: transnational migration from 19902008. Asian Ethnicity. (2), 228.
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  • WERNER, C (2008). Modern Mongolia: Reclaiming Genghis Khan edited by Paula L. W. Sabloff. American Anthropologist. 110(1), 139-140.
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  • Brede, N., Barcus, H. R., & Werner, C. (2015). Negotiating Everyday Islam After Socialism: A Study of the Kazakhs of Bayan-Ulgii, Mongolia. The Changing World Religion Map. 1863-1890. Springer Netherlands.
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  • Werner, C. A. (2014). The Dynamics of Feasting and Gift Exchange in Rural Kazakhstan. Svanberg, I. (Eds.), Contemporary Kazaks Cultural and Social Perspectives. 47-72. Routledge.
  • Werner, C., & Purvis-Roberts, K. (2013). Cold war memories and post-cold war realities: The politics of memory and identity in the everyday life of Kazakhstans radiation victims. Ethnographies of the State in Central Asia: Performing Politics. 285-310.
  • Barcus, H. R., & Werner, C. A. (2013). Transnational Migration, Globalization and the Persistence and Adaptation of Rural Livelihoods: A Case Study of the Kazakh Diaspora in Western Mongolia. Cawley, M., Bicalho, A., & Laurens, L. (Eds.), The Sustainability of Rural Systems Global and Local Challenges and Opportunities : Proceedings of the 19th Annual Colloquium of the Commission on the Sustainability of Rural Systems of the International Geographical Union, National University of Ireland Galway, August 2011. 145-153.
  • Werner, C. A. (2009). Patriotism, Profits and Waste: The Moral Dimensions of Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal in Texas. Browne, K. E., & Milgram, B. L. (Eds.), Economics and Morality Anthropological Approaches. 143-166. Rowman & Littlefield.
Repository Documents / Preprints1
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mailing address
Texas A&M University; Anthropology; 4352 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-4352