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An Institutional Ethnography of Women Entrepreneurs and Post-Soviet Rural Economies in Kyrgyzstan

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
The overarching problematic of this study is to understand how initiatives developed by international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) come to organize processes of economic and social 'development' in Jerge-Tal village, located in a remote mountainous region of Kyrgyzstan. My objective was to examine how courses developed and delivered by Women Entrepreneurs Support Association (WESA) coordinate with the actual needs, capacities, and work processes of women entrepreneurs and the broader contexts in which they live and work. My original contribution to knowledge is an account of how people's work processes are drawn into and coordinated by a set of relations that, whether intentional or not, preclude dialogic interchanges across a sequence of interrelated activities that link my own academic work, the institutions and work practices of development workers (both local and international), the goals and practices of different levels of governance, and the efforts of women entrepreneurs in local sites where 'development’ actually happens. I used Institutional Ethnography (IE) as a framework of inquiry to investigate how development agendas aimed at improving the well-being of women are coordinated at institutional and local levels. Training programs for women entrepreneurs are part of a strategy developed by Western gender specialists concerned with how to address the problem of women's social and economic marginalization. As such, they are tied into an international development programming complex wherein concerns with women's well-being are articulated through institutional processes (such as accounting systems, accountability systems, and computerized technologies) which produce definitions of gender, establish gender mainstreaming programs and policies, and assess effective implementation and compliance with these processes. This study contributes to better understanding how such processes operate. The insights provided offer a starting point for developing a body of knowledge about local development processes that is empirically informed, politically useful, and, at least to some extent, locally produced. This kind of knowledge is politically useful to the local peoples who have contributed to it, but also to the institutions that study and serve them (or fail to serve them), and those seeking to better specify what concepts like colonization, capitalism, and transformation mean in the post-Soviet Kyrgyz context.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Travers, Ann
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