Different from the already existing studies on Turkic anthroponymy and onomastics, E. Hvoslef’s analysis of the social use of personal names among the Kyrgyz is rooted in contemporary practices and aims at contextualising these social uses within the broader context of modern political projects. The article partly fulfils the promise of the title thanks to some paragraphs of vivid ethnographic account (p. 86) and to a detailed analysis of the forms, meanings and functions of some personal names. Yet the latter are not informed by previous studies on Turkic anthroponymy and the bibliography remains quite poor. Most of the controversial points in E. Hvoslef’s analysis concern the confusion, as it is often the case in recent works on Kyrgyzstan, between genealogical chart and genealogical identification on the one hand, and tribes and tribal organisations on the other hand. Sure, the idiom of genealogy or ancestry is presently used for conceptualising Kyrgyz ethnic identity; yet genealogical lines cannot be equalled with “tribes” and “clans” as defined, in quite an amateurish manner, in a previous article by the same author (“Tribalism and Modernity in Kirgizia,” in M. Sabour & K. Vikor, eds., Ethnic Encounter and Culture Change, London: C. Hurst & Co, 1997: 96-108). The recurrent confusion between categories and groups (cf. also p. 93), as well as the insufficient knowledge of land use among Kyrgyz in the pre-colonial period, explain that E. Hvoslef fails to relate identity claims and land claims nowadays. The reader will thus be informed on the social uses of personal names but will be misled as far as the complex dynamics of identity in independent Kyrgyzstan are concerned.
Svetlana Jacquesson, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle