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Friday, May 06, 2005

Antifeminism, Kyrgyz style

I continue to be amazed by how small the world is.  Just as I was about to go to bed last night, I took a look at one of the papers piling up by my "Happy Chair" -- the chair that makes me happy and relaxed -- and found Saturday's NYT.  Hmm, there's a front page story entitled "Abduction, Often Violent, a Kyrgyz Wedding Rite."   It turns out the story is about how large numbers of brides in Kyrgyzstan are kidnapped and forced into marriage. 

The study of this unusual moral tragedy was undertaken by Petr Lom, a Czech-born Torontonian who was a non-resident tutor of mine (in the Gov dep't) at Lowell House back when I was a rambunctious wine-swilling undergrad.  Petr and I not only shared a Toronto background and a love of Lowell's dining room, but also an interest in political philosophy; he ended up publishing his Phd dissertation, The Limits of Doubt, a few years ago. 

At 6"8, he may have been the tallest friend I ever had.  He was also an impressive oarsman; if I'm not mistaken, he started rowing while a grad student and by the time he finished, he was either at or near an Olympic-class level.  I often think that his encounters with skepticism led him to an insatiable love of sport, where uncertainty and postmodern challenges to excellence were less likely to encroach or corrupt.  We fell out of touch after he and I left Harvard; you can imagine my surprise and pleasure then to see his name mentioned on the front page of the NYT, having earned his place there by virtue of this film.  There's an interesting interview with Petr here

Pretty amazing.  With some luck, Petr's film will work a form of "moral entrepreneurship" such that this hideous practice will stop and the norms will shift, leaving Petr more time to continue teaching classics in political philosophy in Budapest at CEU.  As the article makes clear, the work of protecting and perpetuating human freedom and equality under law remains unfinished.

Update: I just heard back from Petr, and it turns out he's living in Vegas now, not in Budapest. Even weirder!  Perhaps the next logical step was to study bizarre marriage practices in Nevada.  Turns out he's left academia and has started a film company.  There's hope for all of us!

Posted by Administrators on May 6, 2005 at 12:14 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Bride-stealing was not uncommon in the American frontier. See, David Hackett Fisher, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York, 1989), 669-671.

Posted by: John Steele | May 6, 2005 4:07:31 PM

I'm not sure tribal (or clannish) is the same as primitive, let alone pre-modern. It's malignant.

Posted by: Dan Markel | May 6, 2005 2:44:53 PM

By the way, I wonder how much of this is Kyrgyz and how much of it is just "how tribal societies operate."

After all, the Bible/Torah (and Koran? I'm not sure) is full of examples of this kind of behavior. There are whole sections of Leviticus and Deuteronomy about what happens when a man comes across a woman and rapes her in the field -- and the answer is basically (if she was unmarried) that he pays her father some silver, and she becomes his wife. And there are multiple stories about various tribes of Israel carrying off women as wives. (e.g., the remnant of Benjamin).

Posted by: Kaimi | May 6, 2005 1:48:14 PM


Agreed on the Kyrgyz article -- that practice sounded awful. I was most surprised by the number of women who seemed resigned and even accepting of it, ex post. I suspect that there's a certain amount of Patty Hearst syndrome going on. Plus, there's the one woman who said "well, another guy was going to kidnap me anyway, so I'd rather my boyfriend did it, even though I really didn't want to marry him."

Talk about a trip to Bizarro-land.

Posted by: Kaimi | May 6, 2005 1:44:18 PM

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