Recruitment flyers from fieldwork in Shymkent, Kazakhstan, August 2022
My substantive interests center on the politics of religion, informal institutions, identity, and gender.
I engage in quantitative and qualitative methodologies. I have conducted fieldwork, interviewing young Kazakhstanis about their views on the LGBTQ+ community as well as social media. I also have experience working with large observational datasets in R, employing qualitative and quantitative text analysis, and survey methods.
My dissertation project looks at the informal institutional side of how autocratic regimes maintain themselves. I closely look at how regimes manipulate cultural institutions and content in the name of tradition to their own ends. I refer to this process as retraditionalization and harness empirical variation in Central Asia to explore this phenomenon.
Olijar, Marika, and Junda Li. 2023. “Persuasion or Polarization? LGBTQ+ Attitudes among Young Social Media Users in Kazakhstan.” Central Asian Survey, DOI: 10.1080/02634937.2023.2187759.
Abstract: Does social media exposure contribute to progressive or polarized views among youth? With a large and young population online, Kazakhstan offers a polarized authoritarian context in which to study the effects of social media. We use a mixed-method approach that contrasts wider statistical trends from an online survey and experiment with Kazakhstani youth aged 18–30 (N = 1027) and empirical data from 23 exploratory semi-structured interviews with mainly urban Kazakhstani youth conducted in the southern regions of the country in August 2022. The findings from both analyses show that the frequent use of social media positively influences Kazakhstani youth attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community. We also causally identify that pro-LGBTQ+ social media posts in general promote positive LGBTQ+ attitudes but post wording may matter less. The findings from statistical and non-statistical analyses show the frequent use of social media positively influences Kazakhstani youth attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community.
The authors have committed to self-archiving to ensure access to Central Asian and LGBTQ+ folks outside academia. Please find the linked paper here.
1. “Effect of Religious Institutions on Gender Attitudes,” with Khasan Redjaboev and Khabibakhon Ubaydullaeva (data collection stage)
Scholars have varying opinions about what influences gender attitudes in the post-Soviet area. Some scholars point to the enduring legacy of Soviet gender-egalitarian policies, while others point to a widespread backlash against such policies after the Soviet Union's fall. We advance that the variation in gender attitudes (Y) can be explained by the nature of religious institutions (X). In Central Asia, Soviet repression and regulation of Islam led to a parallel system of formal and informal religious practice that remains in place today. Ironically, through forced secularization and controlling women’s religious participation, the authoritarian institutions created a more gendered formal religious institutions with conservative vertical cultural transmission, while less regulated and more inclusive informal institutions allowed for comparatively more gender-egalitarian horizontal value transmission. We argue that informal religious institutions known as public shrines encourage women’s participation in Islam, positively impacting the importance of women’s rights and respondents’ beliefs regarding the existence of equal rights, whereas formal religious institutions like mosques reify conservative gender attitudes. We explore a counterintuitive causal mechanism of the state-mandated forced secularization in Central Asia: how state-imposed secularization resulted in women’s ban from formal religious institutions like mosques and its modern-day effects. We exploit quasi-exogenous exposure to formal and informal religious institutions, where survey responses to gender attitudinal questions in the Life in Transitions Survey Wave 3 diverge by institutional exposure. Our work shows that variation in gender attitudes arises from institutional metrics rather than from 'Islam,' challenging previous studies that uniformly associate Islam with patriarchal gender views
2. “Unpacking Othering in Russian Nationalism(s)” (data collection stage)
While scholars concede nationalism is variable and constructed, the literature often defines in-group and out-group on a discrete binary. This paper interrogates how different forms of othering are selectively deployed by large states to pursue geopolitical goals. Using the case of Russia, and drawing on state media articles from the periods before the Chechen Wars and up to the present day rhetoric on the Ukrainian War, I employ process-tracing to present a typology of contemporary conceptions of Russian nationalism and determine whether media framing of Non-Slavic versus Slavic groups is differentiable through content analysis. I identify three coexisting forms of nationalism which mobilize against: (1) enemies of the people (who are ethnic Russians themselves and must be purged), (2) Slavic ‘brethren’ (who must be homogenized and ‘re-incorporated’), and Non-Slavic ‘subjects’ (who are beyond homogenization but must be ‘re-incorporated’ as subjects). This analysis provides insights on the Russian Federation’s evolving geopolitical strategy as well as domestic maintenance within its borders.