Social and Political Perceptions of the Borat Phenomenon in Kazakhstan: Evidence from a Case Study of University Students

Donnacha Ó Beacháin

Abstract


This article begins by chronicling and evaluating the reaction of the government of Kazakhstan to Sacha Baron Cohen’s fi lm Borat—Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefi t Glorious Nation of Ka zakh stan. It then compares and contrasts the offi cial government reaction with the expressed attitudes of local members of Kazakhstan’s young English-speaking elites. This study is based on the results of a survey of almost fi ve hundred young university students conducted in March 2007 at the Kazakhstan Institute of Man age ment, Economics and Strategic Research (KIMEP), the most prestigious university in the country. The sample gives a snapshot of those most likely to have been aware of Borat - the young, internet-savvy, educated urban elite - and inter alia provides insights into how respondents in Kazakhstan thought the movie impacted their country and would infl uence how they were treated abroad. The survey results suggest that while responses to Borat were heterogeneous, most students accepted that the choice of Kazakh stan as a target for satire was coincidental rather than conspiratorial. Despite offi cial eff orts to ban the movie, a majority of the respondents had seen the fi lm and believed that the ban was a mistake. Also, while recognising that Borat would raise Kazakhstan’s profi le in the world, respondents doubted it would increase knowledge, and some feared a change in their treatment when travelling abroad.

Keywords


Kazakhstan; Borat; KIMEP; Sacha Baron Cohen; Nazarbayev

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