Queer lives in Kazakhstan remain legally unprotected and characterised by fear and societal homophobia. Existing research in the region indicates that the culture of shame or uyat is one of the key regulatory practices of gender and sexuality within families and broader communities. Shaming in Kazakhstan is often used for maintaining ‘traditional’ order that generally tends to represent heteronormative ideals. Given that being queer by definition subverts gender and sexuality norms, queerness in Kazakhstan is subject to uyat. I will examine the role of shame or uyat in the regulation of the lives of queer people in Kazakhstan. I will also explore the ways in which queer people resist this social code. This chapter is based on a qualitative study that uses a Foucauldian-informed thematic analysis of interviews conducted with eleven people who identify as queer and live in Kazakhstan. Combining insight literary and cultural theorists of shame, such as Elspeth Probyn and Sara Ahmed, with theorists using the framework of Honour and Shame dominant in analysing gender and sexuality in the Muslim world, as well as local conceptualisations of uyat, I focus on the personal experiences, meanings and effects of a culture of uyat on queer Kazakhstani people’s lives. I consider those experiences within a socio-historical framework and analyse the ways in which various regulatory strategies (both current and historical) interact with one another and are reflected within the narratives of queer people in Kazakhstan. The findings reveal the impact of shame or uyat on the silence around any matters related to sexuality or relationships outside of matrimony, hence, silence around being queer. I look at the impact of shame on queer people’s lives, how it internalises, and discuss the potential relationship of shame with suicidality of queer people in Kazakhstan. Lastly, the chapter exposes how queer people and their families negotiate shame and shaming, considering the ambivalent nature of shame as having a productive or generative potential.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUyat or the culture of shame in Central Asia
EditorsJean-Francois Caron, Hélène Thibault
PublisherPalgrave MacMillan
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

Publication series

NameThe Steppe and Beyond
PublisherPalgrave MacMillan

ID: 5652116