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Travel Report: Gyuzel Kamalova
Gyuzel Kamalova, a master's student in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, received a Graduate International Research Travel Award (GIRTA) to further her research in Kazakhstan.
I received the Graduate International Research Travel Award in Spring of 2018 to help fund my field trip to Almaty and Taraz, Kazakhstan. My MA research focused on the experiences of orphanage graduates in Almaty and Taraz.
The Kazakhstani government proposed closing down orphanages and opting for fostering system instead. However, neither fostering nor adoption are popular practices in Kazakhstan. The image of orphanage children as deviant, unhealthy and incapable is perpetuated in media reports and is continuously reinforced by the administration of orphanages. This undermines a smooth transition from institutionalization to fostering proposed by the government, and, more importantly, affects the lives of orphans as they face various levels of discrimination upon graduation.
I conducted my ethnographic fieldwork for the period of one month. During that month, I interviewed 28 research participants, visited a local orphanage for children with disabilities, and NGOs helping orphans and orphanage graduates.
This research was intended to create space for orphanage graduates to construct their own narratives as a way of challenging the dominant views of orphans as deviant, unhealthy and incapable of living outside the institutional walls.
I was very fortunate to meet individuals who were generous with their time, and most importantly shared their personal, at times painful stories. This was an emotionally, and even physically taxing month. But I am immensely grateful to have had an opportunity to conduct this research, and hear the stories about institutional childhood and post-graduation adaption from the orphanage graduates themselves.
I believe this research will offer a better understanding of lived and embodied experiences of orphanage graduates. I believe my thesis will be pertinent to addressing the reforms in policies and institutional childcare in Kazakhstan. It will also benefit the state officials, NGOs and academia involved in working and researching institutional childhood and childcare in Kazakhstan and other Post-Soviet countries.