Book chapter: Epic Performances in Central Asia

25th November 2020

Cite this chapter:

Breed, A. (2020). Epic Performances in Central Asia. In: Breed, A., Dubuisson, EM., Iğmen, A. (eds) Creating Culture in (Post) Socialist Central Asia. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.


This essay provides an overview of a unique performance style and oral epic tradition from Central Asia known as Manas that both serves as the name of a legendary warrior or Khan from Kyrgyzstan who united tribes and the name of an epic that is said to contain a larger number of verses than any other epic poem including the Mahabarata and the Iliad and Odyssey. My main argument is based on the use and distribution of Manas when considering cultural forms as a highly codified system of embodied knowledge. Cultural theorist Raymond Williams (1981) notes the importance of culture as a signifying system through which a social order is communicated, reproduced, experienced, and explored. Throughout my analysis, I examine the use of cultural forms and how they have been produced for varied purposes and audiences alongside the content of the form itself. In this way, exploring the cultural form of Manas alongside theatrical representations of Manas in relation to varied historic, cultural, and political contexts.