Kidnapping Women: Discourses of Emotion and Social Change in the Kyrgyz Republic

In 1974, Anthropological Quarterly published a special issue on bride theft. Since then, considerable work has been published on the practice. Drawing on my fieldwork in the Kyrgyz Republic, I assess current understandings of the practice. I argue that although functionalist and symbolic approaches to kidnapping are still relevant, it is necessary to consider kidnapping in the context of intensifying discursive competition over marriage, gender roles, and authority. In my account, kidnapping is a practice that both supports and undermines existing systems of oppression. As such, it has become a powerful engine of social change. [Keywords: Marriage, love, power, gender, family, former soviet Union, Kyrgyz republic].

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