Central Asian Studies Coming Home: After Two Decades of Individual Initiatives and Institutional Developments
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Central Asian Studies Coming Home: After Two Decades of Individual Initiatives and Institutional Developments

September 26, 2013

 

Speaker: John Schoberlein, Eurasian Regional Studies, Nazarbayev University

 

This talk considered the changes that have occurred scholarship on Central Asia since the break-up of the Soviet Union, and the changing place of scholarship produced in Central Asia within the international context.  Post-Soviet developments have been characterized to a significant extent -- both internationally, but especially within the region -- but there have also been major impulses for change emanating from scholars' ambitions to engage with international scholarship, to outside institutions seeking to induce change, and national governments seeking to compete in the international academic arena.  Though examination of some cases, the talk considered the challenges, achievements and prospects for locally produced Central Asian scholarship to become a "normal" part of international disciplinary scholarship.  Towards this end, two dramatic changes are underway: Central Asian scholars are overcoming the isolation imposed by the "Iron Curtain" and its ideological and institutional legacies, and the field of Central Asian studies internationally is breaking out of the area studies enclave that existed in "comfortably" due to Cold War rationales for support to and interest in the study of the region.

 

Bio: John Schoeberlein serves as director of Eurasian Regional Studies at Nazarbayev University and teaches in the anthropology program at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Since September 2011, he has been Visiting Professor at the Gumilyov Eurasian National University, teaching in the departments of Philosophy and Sociology. He is a social anthropologist with nearly three decades of experience researching Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Muslim societies of Eurasia generally. 

Prior to coming to Nazarbayev University in 2012, he established and directed the Program on Central Asia and the Caucasus at Harvard University (Cambridge, USA) for nearly two decades. He received his Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from Harvard University in 1994.

He played the leading role in establishing the Central Eurasian Studies Society, holding the position of the first President from 2000 to 2003, and continuing to lead the organization through 2007. He has been involved in a number of initiatives aimed at development of social science and cultural studies scholarship on Central Asia and the former Soviet Union. These include leadership of the Central Asia and Caucasus Research and Training Initiative (CARTI) of the Open Society Foundations, and projects aimed at developing the study of anthropology, religion and particularly Islam in among university faculty-level researchers in Eurasia.

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