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Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, and Damn the Dictatorship

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Concepts and Conduct of Well-Being in Uzbekistan

image of Central Asian Affairs

Studies of well-being focus on physical attributes of the subject or subjects, and many focus on physical health. This article scrutinizes well-being from the standpoint of emotional contentedness. Rather than making claims about overall contentedness, my interest is in instantiating contentedness in ordinary situations based on 20 years of fieldwork. I suggest that we sometimes miss out on contentedness because we focus too much on a trying political or economic state. Because anthropologists tend to write about postsocialism as joyless and painful—owing to the collapse of communism and its replacement by authoritarianism—we also owe it to readers to document instances of the “good life.” Using ethnographic narration, I offer portals to feasting, drinking, and field labors in villages to represent ordinary ways in which Uzbeks embody a joie de vivre. Dreary politics and economics aside, people do live their lives and take great pleasure in them.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Anthropology, Northeastern Illinois University,


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