Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Finally, I Have Legalized My Marriage

Today after over  four years of struggle with Soviet era red tape I finally successfully registered my marriage with my Kyrgyz partner of nearly seven years at the ZAGS on Sovetskaya in Bishkek. The Kyrgyz authorities rejected my first four attempts at various points along the way. That is the cover of the marriage certificate to the right. According to the US Embassy website on the issue, "Marriages which are legally performed and valid in the Kyrgyz Republic are also legally valid in the United States." If there is a country where it is harder for a US citizen who is not connected to the military or powerful people like Soros to get married to one of their citizens, I don't know what it is. But, I finally did it. Unfortunately, for all the talk of marriage equality, it is not a reality. Somebody like me who manages to overcome all the hurdles to marry a Kyrgyz woman still has an even greater uphill battle to get her a visa to come to the US as can be seen by the information in the link above to the  website of the US embassy in Bishkek.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Once Again We Are On Strike Over Our Book and Research Allowance (UTAG)

On Thursday, 24 July 2014, UTAG (University Teachers Association of Ghana) called an indefinite strike over the issue of nonpayment of book and research allowances. The Ghanaian government as usual has responded with an arrogant refusal to abide by its legal contractual obligations to its employees. This blog has very few readers, but to those who do read it I have a favor to ask. Labor issues in Africa particularly those involving academic labor get very little coverage outside the continent. This is despite the fact that the largest such actions actually occur in Africa and not in the US or even Europe. So to anybody reading this that has the means and that means just about everybody with a blog, a Facebook account, or any other means of communication please spread the word. It is time that people knew.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Red Racisms

Apparently, Ian Law wrote a book specifically on racism in the socialist world called Red Racisms that came out two years ago. It is part of a larger series published on race by Palgrave MacMillan. The part on how racism developed during Tsarist Russia continued to exist in institutional form in the USSR can be read in its entirety here. It was rather disappointing to me both on a practical and theoretical level. He has almost nothing on Stalin's mass deportation of nationalities and the imposition of apartheid like restrictions upon them. Policies and institutions that effected whole groups of people based solely upon their ancestry or blood. Indeed the whole era where much of the Stalin regime's repression was based specifically upon natsional'nost, 1937-1953 is glossed over in a single paragraph with only a single sentence making reference to "ethnic and national purges." Rather it mostly refers to racial continuities in Tsarist and Soviet rule over Central Asia building upon work first pioneered by Geoffrey Wheeler. Instead following in the lines of Hirsch he focuses the section on the USSR on the work of Soviet physical anthropologists during the 1920s that studied racial differences, but had no influence on either Soviet policy or its ideological justification. Although unlike Hirsch he argues that the Soviet government created and enforced racial hierarchies. The post-Stalin period is equally glossed over and there is no mention of Yulian Bromley and ethnos theory at all despite its importance in providing an ideological justification for Soviet nationality policies along lines of racialized ethnicity. Instead there is a cursory treatment of Soviet media coverage of Africa and Africans and an equally brief synopsis of Soviet policy towards the Roma. Indeed most of the chapter does not deal with the Soviet Union at all, but rather first with Imperial Russia and then with the Russian Federation after 1991. Overall the section on the USSR is greatly marred by sins of omission. How institutional racism functioned legally in the USSR and on a day to day basis is almost completely lacking. The manner is which the life chances of ethnic Germans or Crimean Tatars were actually restricted is not discussed at all. Nor is the ethnos theory which justified the racialization of ethnicity and hence practice of racial discrimination by the regime. Instead we are left with just a few generalities about ill treatment of Muslims, Africans, and Roma as the sum of racial discrimination described during the Soviet era. Given the systematic denial of racism in the USSR both by the regime itself  in the past and Western scholars still today the topic deserves a much more thorough and detailed treatment than Law has given it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

New Publication on Blacks in the USSR Out

In addition to being one of the co-editor's of this collection I also have a chapter in it: “Is there a Black Eurasia?: Ghanaian and other African Diasporic Populations in the USSR in Comparative Perspective.” I have reproduced the abstract for the article below.

The population of African ancestry in the USSR exhibited certain diasporic characteristics despite its small population, fragmented settlement, and high levels of acculturation. It also differed considerably both in its legal status and cultural cohesion from other larger European and East Asian diasporas in the USSR such as the Germans, Jews, Poles, Finns, Greeks, and Koreans. Nonetheless it shared with these better researched diasporas the experience of being viewed by most of Soviet society as being alien to the territory of the Russian Empire and USSR. This chapter seeks to place the history of Soviet citizens of African descent into the larger history of how the Soviet government and society at large treated diasporic populations. In particular it compares people of African origins with Germans, Jews, Poles, Greeks, and Koreans. It is hoped that such a comparison can shed greater historical light upon the questions of diaspora and race in the USSR.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Labor Unrest in Ghana and UTAG

Labor unrest in Ghana and strikes by UTAG (University Teachers Association of Ghana) are not new. UTAG was one of many Ghanaian unions that went on strike in 2013. While they have not yet gone on strike in 2014 as have other unions there have been statements that if the book and research allowance is not paid for both 2103/2014 and 2014/2015 in September that UTAG will again strike.  Last year as a result of the strike the 2012/2013 allowance was paid in September. But, in 2012 the 2011/2012 allowance was not paid until December. The government response so far is that it does not owe university lecturers any allowances. UTAG, however, has stated that they will not concede on this issue.  Two years of research and book allowance for lecturers of my rank currently comes to $3000.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Kyrgyz Foods

It appears that my most popular post recently is the one dealing with Ghanaian food. I couldn't find any great links to videos on Kyrgyz food. But, since I have been here I have had the following dishes. I am sure I am missing some, but this is what I can remember off the top of my head.



Fried fish and potatoes









Uzgen Plov

Tony raves about Ghanaian food : Video : Travel Channel

Tony raves about Ghanaian food : Video : Travel Channel