Safer and fairer: The value of cooperative approaches to fieldwork by Philipp Lottholz, University of Marburg

Recent pieces on reflexivity and the role of emotions during fieldwork on this platform have made it abundantly clear that fieldwork in foreign countries can be very challenging and brings up multiple questions and dilemmas that researchers need to navitage. A recent contribution by Mohira Suyarkulova on the Central Asian context has extended the critical view on fieldwork by pointing out that, in order to counter extractive forms of knowledge production that serve to orientalise the region, fieldwork should be an engagement on an equal footing with subjects. Embracing such an approach, argued Suyarkulova, can help to inverse the usual hierarchies of academic research and make it an endeavour of emancipation and liberation.

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Workshop CFP: State-Citizenship Relations in Greater Central Asia

Type: International workshop

Date: October 18-19

Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Globalization and its attendant rapid socio-economic and political transformations have substantially redefined the way we see both the state and the institute of citizenship. The most prosaic debates have revolved around the idea of a decapitated or thinned state, which has lost significant authority to global capital circulations, corporate interests, international law, and the very internationalization of government through the growth of international institutions and agencies. The institute of citizenship has also been redefined in this context, with space created for an assumption of instrumentality. The function of citizenship is seen to enclose greater flexibility, mobility, and access to markets and safety, thus shedding some of the concept of loyalty to the political bodies that have produced it through laws.

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The Analyzing Kyrgyz Narratives (AKYN) Research Project by James Plumtree, American University of Central Asia

Versions of the Kyrgyz epos Manas have been collected and studied for over a hundred and sixty years. Reasons for this research have varied. Foreign scholars collected the first variants of stories connected to the legendary hero Manas and his descendents for linguistic purposes in the mid-nineteenth century.[i] As a Tsarist expedition made the first sound recording of a performance, connoisseurship of written variants appeared with an emerging class of Kyrgyz literati.[ii] Nationalistic interests of these local intellectuals, and the Soviet focus on folklore, coincided with the aim to produce a complete narrative. Post second world war political concerns led to the publication of a harmonized epic, with features deemed problematic removed.[iii] Throughout these periods, the extinction of the living oral tradition has frequently been predicted. In post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan (1991-), the resurgence of oral performances has been met with the frequent claim that ‘true manaschis’ (chïnïgï Manaschïlar), performers of the Manas epos capable of the traditional oral improvising, have been replaced by ‘manaschis by the book’ (jattama Manaschïlar­), those who merely memorize a printed version.[iv] Wishing to examine this issue, in Fall 2017 a group of researchers connected to the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, responded to my initiative to collect and study new variants of the Manas epos.

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Shifting Seas: The Lived Landscapes of Aral by Grace H. Zhou, Stanford University

“We Are Not Mutants”

Stihia Festival promised to be the Burning Man of Central Asia. On September 14, hundreds of revelers gathered in Moynaq, a once bustling port at the edge of the brimming Aral Sea, but now a dusty town in the Karakalpak autonomous region of northwestern Uzbekistan. Festival goers arrived from cities across Uzbekistan and other parts of Central Asia, Europe, and the US, hoping to rave to techno sets mixed by DJs from Tashkent, Moscow, Tbilisi, and Berlin. Media reports soon followed, describing the spectacle: the desolate landscape of a former sea-bed-turned-desert; electro-music as rain-song to call back the sea or, at least, to raise environmental awareness; the hundreds of curious locals who showed up to observe the festivities.[1]

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Author Interview: The Rise and Fall of Khoqand, 1709-1876: Central Asia in the Global Age, by Scott Levi, Ohio State University

Building upon their Author-Critic Forum at the recent annual CESS meetings in Pittsburgh 2018, author and historian Scott Levi (Ohio State University) reflects on questions posed by colleague James Pickett (University of Pittsburgh) about his latest book, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2017 as part of the Central Eurasia in Context series.

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