Universiteit Leiden

nl en


Bringing the Past to Life: Epic Narration in Central Asia

  • Nienke van der Heide
Thursday 5 October 2017
Free to visit, drinks after
WHAT's NEW?! Fall Lecture Series
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

The Manas epic in contemporary Kyrgyzstan

Having survived 70 years of socialism, the oral tradition of reciting the Manas epic received a boost in the past 25 years. The desire to reconnect with the past, in which the Kyrgyz lived a nomadic life, fuels the revival of formalised storytelling. For individual Manas narrators, however, the call to devote their lives to epic narration stems not from a personal desire to relive the past, but from a vocation by the spirits of the ancestors that are commemorated in the epic tales. Bringing the past to life kindles hope for a future in which the Kyrgyz are free and connected to the animated environment once again. In the process, the Manas epic becomes a tool in the hands of various political actors who wish to harness the nostalgic appeal for their own purposes.

About Nienke van der Heide

Nienke van der Heide is a cultural anthropologist. She worked as a lecturer at Leiden University until Sept 2017. Her research on the social significance of the Manas epic in Kyrgyzstan is based on two years of field work in the 1990s and multiple visits in the past three years. The findings of her first fieldwork period are published in the ethnography Spirited Performance, the recent developments are discussed in various blogs and articles.

This website uses cookies.  More information.