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The Time of Dishonour: Land and Murder under Colonial Rule in the Tian Shan

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Abstract In this article I try to uncover the reasons for false accusations of murder, instigated murders, and staged murders among the Tian Shan Kyrgyz under Russian colonial rule. Towards this end, I read, contrapuntally, field data, ethnohistorical accounts, colonial statutory laws, and colonial ethnography. I argue that colonial interventions—namely, the hybrid adjudication of murders, the newly designed system of self-government, and the imposition of an arbitrary land-rights regime—correlated in unexpected ways and triggered instigated and staged murders and false accusations of murder as an extreme recourse in defence of land-use rights. I conclude by relating the particular legal setting of Russian colonial rule to its representation as “the time of dishonour.” Dans cet article j’essaie d’élucider les fausses accusations de meurtre, les meurtres prémédités et les meurtres simulés attestés parmi les Kirghiz du Tian Shan à l’époque colonial. A cette fin, j’analyse des récits ethno-historiques, les lois statutaires coloniales et les écrits des ethnographes coloniaux. Je soutiens que des interventions coloniales, telles le jugement hybride des meurtres, le système d’auto-gouvernance nouvellement introduit et la gestion ambiguë de la terre, se combinent de façon inattendue pour produire les meurtres bizarres comme ultime remède aux injustices terriennes. Dans les conclusions, je relie l’environnement légal de la domination coloniale à sa représentation comme “le temps de déshonneur.”


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