Knowledge Production on Central Asia: Transcultural Approaches in Central Asian Studies

  • Sophie Roche (Author)

Abstract

At the core of area studies lies the idea that studying discrete regions in terms of their political, linguistic, and cultural differentiations is a valid approach. However, there can be a tendency towards inconsistency in the definition of certain areas. Furthermore, there can be an inclination towards the peripherization of certain regions when being treated as part of a wider “area” whose core lies elsewhere. Central Asia is a prominent example of both. Firstly, there is much variance in the spatial use of the term. Depending on who is writing, the term “Central Asia” might refer to the area from Afghanistan to Mongolia and from Xinjiang to the Black Sea, or it might be used to refer to the five post-Soviet republics Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, at times including Afghanistan. Secondly, it is rarely studied of itself, rather it is often treated as peripheral to a perceived core lying elsewhere. Thus, the task of the field of Central Asian studies is to subvert this, placing the people in the region, their history, culture, practices, and politics as the centre of focus.

Transcultural approaches have criticized treating discrete areas as bounded units of study, suggesting instead to look for relationships, interconnectivities, and entanglements across regions. Therefore, there is no reason why Central Asia should be treated as peripheral to more established disciplines, ignoring its internal complexity, language diversity, history, political distinct paths, global relationships, and cultural productions. Transcultural methods go beyond monolingual research and political boundaries, their strength is to zoom into micro-processes and out to address larger entanglements, to look at the sudden events and long-term processes. This demands an in-depth knowledge of the subject and of several regions, a challenge that is time and resource consuming. Historically, Central Asia remains relevant to all area studies in Asia but contemporary approaches are not the simple continuation of former empires. Rather, political ruptures, religious orientations, and economic relationships require different approaches for Central Asia since the twentieth century.

Transcultural approaches have criticized treating areas as discrete units of study and suggested to look for relationships, interconnectivities, and entanglements across regions. Therefore, there is no reason why Central Asia should be treated as peripheral to more established disciplines, ignoring its internal complexity, language diversity, history, political distinct paths, global relationships and cultural productions. Transcultural methods go beyond monolingual research and political boundaries, their strength is to zoom into micro-processes and out to address larger entanglements, to look at the sudden events and long-term processes. This demands an in-depth knowledge of the subject and of several regions, a challenge that is time and resource consuming. Historically, Central Asia remains relevant to all area studies in Asia but contemporary approaches are not the simple continuation of former empires. Rather, political ruptures, religious orientations, economic relationships require different approaches for Central Asia since the twentieth century.

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Published
2018-12-20
Section
Articles
Language
en
Academic discipline and sub-disciplines
Anthropology; Transcultural Studies; Cultural Studies; Central Asian Studies
Keywords
Central Asia; transcultural; Soviet ethnography; Islam