University of Calgary

Saulesh B Yessenova

  • Associate Professor


I have been conducting research in post-Soviet Kazakhstan, one of the five Caspian littoral states since 1996. A central theme of my on-going project is a critical conjunction of nation-building and crude oil, the key endeavors that Kazakhstan launched upon independence. What has come out of this powerful friction? I seek explanations to this question by analyzing a series of venues, including public spectacles, corporate disasters, production-sharing agreements, everyday practices, and the struggle of indigenous communities to survive the oil boom. My interest in social transformation, cultural politics, and the political economy of global linkages grew out of my doctoral study. In my dissertation, The Politics and Poetics of the Nation: Urban Narratives of Kazakh Identity, I have examined the idea of Kazakh nationhood within the context of social and economic imperatives during the Soviet and post-Soviet periods. I have focused on two sets of conflicting epistemologies—colonial and indigenous—that shaped the meaning and power of Kazakh identity. By drawing on the narratives centering on the shejýre—a discursive representation of the collective past and individual histories—that reemerged within the context of urban exodus, I have demonstrated the way a colonial legacy and the politics of othering played out within the social realm in post-socialist Kazakhstan.



Journal Article


  • - Anthropology
    McGill University, 2003
  • MA with Distinction - Sociology
    Central European University, 1994
  • BA
    Kazakh State University, Kazakhstan, 1988
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