Local Politics and Patronage of Sacred Lineage Shrine in Kazakhstan

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Pilgrimage to saints’ shrines is an important Islamic practice in Kazakhstan. Kazakhs go on pilgrimages seeking cures for disease, blessings for the future, and a connection to the past. Pilgrimage sites and those who control them are not, however, apolitical. The control of shrines and the business of pilgrimage are both connected to govern- mental nation-building policies. This paper shows that traditional shrine keepers from sacred lineages (qozha) in northern Kazakhstan seek patronage from political and eco- nomic elites in order to build, maintain, and expand shrine complexes. These patrons are often state officials who expect returns in cultural capital for investments of eco- nomic capital. The different goals of patrons and shrine-keepers occasionally lead to conflict. This paper examines one such conflict and explores what it reveals about the interplay between religion and local politics in Kazakhstan.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-251
Number of pages20
JournalCentral Asian Affairs
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 28 2018


  • Pilgrimage
  • sacred lineage
  • qozha
  • Kazakhstan
  • state-nation-building


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