Hunting with Eagles in Kyrgyzstan: Central Asian Falconry and the Maintenance of Traditional Knowledge

Date: 27 May 2011
Location: UCA Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic
Other languages: Русский язык |

Speaker: Dennis Keen
Date: 27 May 2011, 4 PM
Venue: University of Central Asia, 138 Toktogul Street, Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic Conference Room.

(The views presented in this lecture are those of the presenter and not necessarily those of the University of Central Asia or any of its staff)

The Kyrgyz tradition of capturing, training, and hunting with golden eagles has survived for centuries through oral transmission, passed down from father to son through dynastic chains of tradition. The breadth of knowledge involved in the craft is astounding - an eagle hunter is required to be an expert in bird taxonomy and physiology, raptor reproduction and migration patterns, and raptor husbandry. Each hunter should have a grasp of leather making and woodworking to fashion his own hunting equipment. How is this traditional knowledge being preserved today, and in what context is it being put to use? How have modern economic forces, from tourism to the illegal falcon trade, shaped this ancient tradition? How can this important national heritage be responsibly promoted and maintained?  This lecture describes the findings of research on these questions through qualitative methodologies, including formal interviews and observation of eagle hunting masters, and informal interviews with leaders of Kyrgyzstan’s hunting federations, as well as quantitative approaches such as the collection and analysis of demographic information of the tradition’s practitioners and the organization of traditional knowledge into formal taxonomies.

Please RSVP to with your name and affiliation. Please indicate if you require Russian translation.

Dennis Keen has worked in the Kyrgyz Republic since September 2010 on a Fulbright Fellowship in Anthropology. He received his B.A. in Linguistics with a concentration in Russian, from the University of California, Santa Cruz. In addition to his work on falconry, Mr. Keen’s interest in ethnomusicology has led him to pursue an apprenticeship in Kyrgyz folk instrumentation with the well-known komuzchu, Nurak Abdirakhmanov, and he writes regularly on various topics for Spektator Magazine.

The presentation will be conducted in English. Russian translation will be provided upon prior request.


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