Gendering United States democratic assistance in Kyrgyzstan : understanding the implications and impact of gendered ethnicity
Democracy, anticipated by American and other Western powers to prevent economic chaos and political conflict within and among states, is not evolving as expected. Since 1991, Western governments have been providing large amounts of democratic assistance to the Former Soviet Union yet few, if any, of the recipient countries have developed into genuine democracies. This research argues that part of the failure resides in United States (US) democracy assistance's inadequate consideration of gender within democracy programming. The lack of effective gender analysis has not only been detrimental to women but has served to obscure comprehensive and vital components of democratic transitions. The field research conducted for this dissertation demonstrates: (I) that gender is more central to women's self- identification than ethnicity; (2) that the meaning, as well as significance, attached to ethnic identity vary between women and men; (3) that there is a greater male identification with ethnicity and with official identities such as citizenship; and (4) that women are more fully involved in the associations that make up civil society than men. Feminist and socio-political science theories are utilised to examine the interrelations of ethnicity and gender within modern Kyrgyzstan-the laboratory of US democratic programming and a country self-promoted as the "island of democracy" within a region prone to ethnic conflict, divided by gender and of geo-political strategic importance. US development practice provides the contextual frame for exploring the relationship of gender and ethnicity. As civil society is a mainstay in US democracy assistance, this so-called independent variable in democratic consolidation is used as a micro framework in this analysis. Gender/feminist theory provides a crosscutting tool intended to expand the theories, data, and analysis of this research to include a gendered perspective. The case study and corresponding field research test the hypothesis that ethnicity is gendered and that it is relevant to democracy assistance. Finally, the conclusion considers the unexplored nexus surrounding these relationships relative to US democratic assistance programming.