Regulation and negotiation of queer subjectivities in post-Soviet Kazakhstan
There is a limited amount of academic research within social sciences investigating the experiences of queer people in post-Soviet Central Asian countries. My study aims to address this gap in the literature by focusing on the everyday narratives of queer people in Kazakhstan within a framework of power and agency, primarily using the theories of Michel Foucault and other scholars such as Hannah Arendt and Erving Goffman. In this study, ‘queer’ is understood as broadly encompassing the whole spectrum of nonheterosexual and non-cisgender identities. By looking at the narratives of queer people within their socio-historical context, this study aims to elucidate two key issues: in Kazakhstan, what regulates queer lives, and how do people negotiate their queer subjectivities? The qualitative study uses a Foucauldian-informed thematic analysis of interviews with eleven people who identify as queer and live in Kazakhstan. The findings reveal that practices of regulation of queer people in Kazakhstan range from legal and medical regulation, surveillance within different everyday contexts, limiting career prospects, and internalised gaze and oppression. Crucially, I argue that despite the manifold regulatory practices, the narratives of queer Kazakhstani participants of this study highlight the artful ability to navigate and negotiate the existing regulatory and power structures to live fulfilling and authentic lives. This study contributes to the scholarship on post-Soviet gender and sexualities by developing a deeper understanding of nonheterosexual and non-cisgender subjectivities in the context of Kazakhstan.