This paper studies how religions, Islam in particular, play a part in the attempted reifications of “neo-ethnic” identities in Kyrgyzstan, a Turkic-speaking republic with a nomadic tradition and a Muslim majority (Hanaficirc Sunni Islam). In a context characterized by brutal transformations (decline in living standards, widening social inequalities, etc.) and by an increasingly failing central state whose autocratic rule appears ineffective, Islam intervenes as a paradoxical resource that is subjected to contrary uses. The traditional social link between collective identity and Islam is in fact reinvested ideologically within the framework of the new state construction. As a result a key question is what function the re-emergence of religion on the Kyrgyz political scene fulfils, especially considering broad disenchantment with politics. Islam is first re-emphasized as a national element by the authorities and, in the process, it becomes the subject of a drive towards territorialization that aims at erasing any transnational and/or pan-Islamist dimension from this universalist religion. Yet Islam and ethnicity are reinvested again in a new mode, the mode of subjectivization of religious belief, which gives rise, outside state control, to overlapping and often contradicting Islamic identities.
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