Central Asia: Global and Local Wisdom: Environmental and Cultural Impact on Indigenous Peoples of Central Asia


This is a listing of older East-West Center events (newer listed first).  See Events to get the list of current or upcoming events.

Webinar (Webex)

When: Oct 22 2021 - 3:00pm until Oct 22 2021 - 4:30pm

Friday, October 22, 2021; 3:00-4:30 pm MST: "Environmental and Cultural Impact on Indigenous Peoples of Central Asia"
Presenters: Scholars Dr. Laura Popova, ASU Archaeologist, and Dr. Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko of the University of Copenhagen; Moderator: Dr. Nicholas DelSordi

“Palimpsest Landscapes: Untangling the Legacies of Ürümqi, Panjakent, and Mes Aynak”
By Dr. Laura Popova

Spread across time and space, Ürümqi (Xinjiang, China), Panjakent (Tajikistan), and Mes Aynak (Afghanistan)are all colorful examples of the rich cultural diversity that characterized much of the history of the ancient silk roads. Though the people that lived in these spaces shifted, as did their religious preferences and political alliances, these places were important nodes along the silk roads that embodied the mixing of cultures and beliefs. In the present moment, however, these sites have become contested liminal spaces that are both in danger and seen as dangerous. On the one hand, development interests in these regions, especially in terms of mining, pit conservation efforts against the economic development of the country. Violence and poverty in these areas often overshadow the desire for cultural preservation, making looting a serious problem. On the other hand, the cosmopolitan legacies of these spaces can work contrary to nationalist arguments and work as imagined spaces of resistance.

“Enlightenment and the Gasping City: Pollution, Purification, and Buddhism in Postsocialist Mongolia” by Dr.Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko

In Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, the murky and obscuring nature of the city’s chronic air pollution is a physical constant of the long winter months. Air pollution intimately influences urban lives in Ulaanbaatar, not only through the bodies that breathe the particulate saturated air but also through religious practices and the city’s psychological underpinnings. Air pollution marks the boundary between what is considered to be the physical and immaterial. It insinuates itself into all parts of the city, yet ultimately eludes capture and control. It is precisely this lack of clarity, its ambiguity or fuzziness, which makes pollution resonate powerfully within the minds of Ulaanbaatar’s residents. As the dirty air blocks access to breath and light in the city, air pollution is believed to reflect broader cosmological, economic, and moral obscurations. This lecture will investigate how the desire for purification and light in Ulaanbaatar relates to contemporary Mongolian religious practices.

About the series:

Central Asia is generally classified as constituting the five -stans (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan) which were part of the Soviet Union. The US Department of Defense groups these countries in the area of operations of CENTCOM; along with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey and Iran, and other Middle East countries. The US State Department groups them under South and Central Asia (including Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as India, but excluding Turkey (Europe and Eurasia) and Iran (Near East). From the Russian perspective, these countries are grouped with the other former Soviet Republics as the “Near Abroad;” while OECD (the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation) groups them with Mongolia, Afghanistan, the countries of the Caucasus as “Eurasia.”

Since 2001, four of the five (excluding Turkmenistan) have been members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization: the other current members are China, Russia, Pakistan, and India. All are included in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, launched in 2013.

These different groupings demonstrate that Central Asia, and its 72 million inhabitants, get pushed to the edges of most contemporary U.S. views of the world. They also alert us to how connected the region is to the security and economic agendas of China and Russia, in particular. And in turn, how political and social projects formulated in Moscow and Beijing; as well as the survival strategies of traders, nomads, farmers, and artisans over generations, have shaped the physical landscape, and cultural contours of the region. This series will explore how a focus on the region could advance efforts to expose US students to diverse perspectives and to advance their global awareness. In addition, the series will interrogate key theoretical concepts in the social sciences and humanities through an alternative lens, informed by empirical data from the region.

FPG: Pending approval for 1.5 hour of Faculty Professional Growth credit per session. Non-Maricopa participants, staff, and community members will receive a certificate of participation upon completion.

These events support the Global Engagement Mission of the Maricopa Community Colleges Governing Board related to providing student global learning opportunities that stem from courses infused with global perspectives. This program is in collaboration with International Education at Maricopa Community Colleges; the Melikian Center at Arizona State University, the University of Arizona Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and the Asian Studies Development Program at the East-West Center

Primary Contact Info:
Name: Daralyn Yee