Kazakhstan: Searching for the 100 – Seeing Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan's multicultural & multinational citizenry is a legacy of Soviet social engineering activities. Yet, beyond the majority nationalities, i.e., the Kazakhs and Russians (76% of the population), many of these minorities have little public visibility. This project aims to begin documenting the lived experiences of some of these minority populations (e.g., Dungans, Uighurs, and Koreans). We will assemble collections of shared stories which will be both published & documented via video in order to produce a documentary about people's lives amidst social change in post-Soviet Kazakhstan.
What locality or neighborhood will your project focus on?
Almaty Oblast (Almaty and the outlying areas)
Describe the specific population with whom you will be working.
For this project, the groups that will be involved include (but are not limited to): Koreans, Uighurs & Dungans. Koreans were moved to Central Asia by Stalin beginning from 1937. Uighurs are a Turkic people group that can be found in Central Asia and in Western China. The Dungans of Chinese ethnicity & have historically identified themselves as Muslim. While some work has been done to share the stories of Kazakhstani Koreans, less is known about the others. The creation of the published stories & the documentary requires the participation of the different communities. While Koreans have more access to various resources (e.g., education) and tend to more familiar with technology and internet resources, the other populations are often in more rural areas & are less familiar with them.
Who else will be on your team to help implement the project?
Grant Manager: Elise S. Ahn (Ph.D)
LinkedIn: Elise Ahn
Community Liaison: Juldyz Smagulova (PhD)
LinkedIn: Juldyz Smagulova
Communications and PR: Maganat Shegebayev (DBA)
10-12 undergraduate and graduate students (that will be formed in teams of three)
What kinds of news, stories and other content will be created?
The participants will collaboratively produce a published book (online and hard copy) of stories told by their communities. These stories will include oral histories and memories, biographies, as well as myths and legends. The process of collecting these stories will also be documented in video clips, which will then be edited into a documentary about the lived experiences of these different communities. This content will be generated over the course of 16 weeks (September to December 2014) with groups working in teams of five (1 faculty member + 4 students) to collect and produce these materials. The mini-projects will also be pitched to two Kazakhstani news blogs (voxpopuli.kz and yvision.kz) as ideas for stories via their blogging platforms.
What technologies and digital tools do you plan to use in the trainings?
Describe the connections that you or your organization have already established or plan to establish that will contribute to the success of the project.
Dr. Smagulova did some ethnographic work among Dungan communities between 2012 and 13. One of our graduate students has done work among a Uighur community. And the Korean Cultural Center has partnered with different people who have done similar types of work in the past. We intend to contact the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan (located near our university), which has representatives from all the different nationalities represented in Kazakhstan to see if other groups might be open to participating in our story telling and oral history project.
How many participants do you think will be trained in your project?
The main trainees will be the student assistants (10-12 undergraduate and graduate students). They will spend 16 weeks developing familiarity with different story telling techniques, as well as becoming more familiar with the technical side of doing digital ethnographic work. However, because the project is intrinsically dependent on community participation, the intention is to involve as many people as possible. In terms of sustaining broader participation, the intention is to host a “Student Showcase” at the end of the semester, where teams can share and show their work and invite members of the different communities to come and share in the experience. The broader aim of this project is to raise community-based discussions about diversity, multicultural identities, and social inclusion.
Describe which technologies, tools, and media you will focus on when training participants.
Team will use handheld digital video cameras to record storytelling and people's oral histories. The video will be supplemented by digital photographs and digital audio (in case people want to participate without being captured on video). The project manager, Dr. Elise Ahn, has experience taking and editing video for storytelling purposes and has done some ethnographic research. Dr. Juldyz Smagulova has experience doing ethnographic research. Dr. Maganat Shegebayev has experience working with local communities and developing strong ties with different stakeholders as needed. Drs. Ahn and Smagulova also have experience in publishing and literacy-related activities.
Describe the facilities where you will hold the workshops.
The Academic Learning Studio at KIMEP University where three of the team members teach at have 12 computers, which are all connected to the internet via ADSL. The lab also has open spaces for the team to discuss the project and a projector (and larger screen tv) that allows the team to view different parts of their work on an ongoing basis.
What is your current relationship with the community with whom you plan to work? What makes you the most appropriate individual or organization to implement this project?
Since much of ethnographic-type work in this region is done via personal networks, team members have relationships with people in these different communities and hopefully will be able to develop a deeper web of connections as more people get involved in the project and after meeting with people from the Assembly. More broadly, Kazakhstan is often associated with the film, Borat, or in terms of its Kazakh national identity, seen in pictures of women in national dresses & men hunting in the Steppe. This team is committed to telling the stories of others that are less frequently represented in the wider public, as well as showing the diversity that does exist in Kazakhstan with the intention of building on this project to look at the lives of as many of the 100 ethnic groups as possible.
What specific challenges do you expect to face when planning and implementing your project?
Because the majority of the project will take place in the fall and winter, there are some infrastructure issues (e.g., weather, icy roads, limited transportation) that the team might face in carrying out this project. Other problems might include slower internet due to heavy usage. While there is nothing the team can do about the internet access, the intention is to collect the recorded data (digital video and audio) in early fall (September-October) by doing all the preparatory work in July and August. Then the processing and post-production of the materials can be done in November and December.
How will you measure and evaluate the project’s impact, specifically: your primary participants, the wider regional community, or the global digital community?
The intended short term impact for the primary participants will include the development of concrete skills (i.e., basics of digital ethnography and story telling, the technical skills involved in video and audio editing, and interviewing skills), as well as the publication of locally-informed materials (short stories and oral histories) that can act as an initial archive for the communities and which will hopefully inspire more similar follow up work. This project is also intended to be a pilot project and will hopefully form the foundation for work that could be carried out on a wider scale (which will also provide a gauge for the project's overall success). In the global digital community, the project's impact will be the representation of underrepresented communities.
If your project were to be selected as a Rising Voices grantee, what would be the general timeline of project activities in 2014?
If selected as a grantee, the timeline would be as follows:
June 2014: Develop clear protocols for the project (video and audio recording, preparation materials, explanation letter)
July-August 2014: Contact the Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakhstan as well as various social networks regarding participating in this project.
September/October 2014: Mini-teams meet in communities and conduct interviews
October/November 2014: Teams edit and write up the interview materials into the appropriate form (stories, oral histories –> texts and mini-documentaries).
December 2014: Community/student showcase
Detail a specific budget of up to $2,500 USD for operating costs.
Handheld video cameras (Canon VIXIA HF R500 Full HD Camcorder) ($300)
SanDisk 32 GB SDHDC Memory Card ($35)
Velbon Videomate Tripod ($70)
Rode VideoMic Go On-Camera Shotgun Microphone and Wind Cover Kit ($140)
Equipment Backpack ($40)
Total video costs: $585 x 3 sets = $1755
Impact Super Collapsible Background – 8 x 16′ ($100)
Transportation Costs = $150
Project Showcase = $300
Misc. Operational Costs (taxes, fees, paperwork fees): $195
Besides the microgrant funding, what other support can Rising Voices provide for your project to ensure its success?
By virtue of funding the project, Rising Voices provides legitimacy and credibility to the project's aims and intended outcomes. Also, by funding and showcasing the project as a grantee, Rising Voices provides a platform to present the work to the broader international community and others doing similar work in telling the stories and histories of underrepresented communities.
Elise S. Ahn
Wow, this is really inspiring. Good luck!