Many Homes: How Kyrgyz Migrants Juggle Their Lives in Multiple Settings (by Dr. Susan Thieme, University of Zurich, Switzerland)

Date: 04 July 2011
PDF version
Location: UCA Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic

Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Kazakhstan are major destinations for young labour migrants from southern Kyrgyzstan in search of economic and educational opportunities. Children and elderly people often do not migrate and stay behind. While the elderly often perceive this separation of the family as temporary, younger people increasingly situate their future in urban areas rather than their villages of origin, sustaining a multi-local life with transnational and urban-rural professional and private linkages. Following the trajectories of these young migrants resulted in the crossing of existing conceptual divides in urban-rural and national-international migration. Roles, status and spaces for action vary from one place to another, determined by gender, age and generation, with the mobile person creating and sustaining a certain routine in each of the places involved. Those responsibilities become precarious in situations where people work illegally and are constrained in moving freely and keeping in contact with family members in other places. The failing return of young migrants to rural places has repercussions for rural development, such as remittance dependency, reinforcement of lack of qualified labour, and new conditions of social care. Methodologically, the multi-site research, conducted in Osh oblast, Bishkek, Almaty and Moscow, proved crucial to gaining insight into the lives of people at various places. This lecture will describe the research which demonstrated the importance of an integrated, multi-local perspective on these issues, from a theoretical, methodological and empirical, and a development policy point of view.

Susan Thieme is a senior lecturer at the Department of Geography, University of Zurich and was visiting scholar at the Sussex Centre of Migration Research and the Institute of Social Studies De Hague. Her research is on migration and development studies, with a regional focus on Central Asia and South Asia. Susan’s research interests include the role of social networks in the process of migration, social finance and remittances; the increasing multi-locality of people’s livelihoods and its effects on economies and responsibilities in families; and to what extent and how return-migrants bring new knowledge and skills upon return to their home country. Susan also has an interest in the exchange of knowledge across disciplines within and beyond academia, as evidenced by her involvement in various initiatives, ranging from film making to developing policy briefs.

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

University of Central Asia, 138 Toktogul Street, Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic. Conference Room.

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

* 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

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