Date of Award

Summer 8-2011

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



The title of my dissertation is "Becoming Azerbaijani: Uncertainty, Belonging and Getting By in a Post-Soviet Society". It is based on twenty-two months of fieldwork I conducted in Azerbaijan (2006-2008), both in the capital city, Baku, and in the country's rural areas, following a research methodology that relied extensively on systematic participant observation (in Azerbaijani and Russian) in conjunction with formal in-depth interviews (in Azerbaijani, Russian and English). In my dissertation I argue that, within a short period of time, as a result of the collapse of the Soviet system, specifically the breakdown of the government-guaranteed safety net, and the disastrous war with Armenia over Karabakh (a region in western Azerbaijan), including the repercussions of the unresolved outcome of the conflict, Azerbaijanis day-to-day lives went from being comparatively stable and secure to highly uncertain, both emotionally and materially. To deal with this pervasive and ongoing uncertainty, Azerbaijanis have cultivated ways of relating to one another - or "strategies of belonging" - that allow them to perceive themselves as members of a society that will successfully recover from the devastating war and can establish a social order, within various urban, rural and refugee communities, that helps members lead reasonably stable and secure lives again - or "get by". During the 1990s, getting by was largely about basic economic survival. Now, in addition to surviving economically, it is also about maintaining the security and dignity of the country and the continuing efficacy of the strategies of belonging and getting by that the various communities' members employ, strategies which differ sharply from community to community.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

James Wertsch

Committee Members

Angela Miller, Lynne Tatlock


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Available for download on Saturday, August 15, 2111