Panel Descriptions

Panel 1: Hegemonic Languages and Local Literatures in Central Eurasia, 1905-1941

In Central Eurasia in the early 20th-century, states selectively transformed regional dialects into fixed national or ethnicized languages (Tajik, Dari, Azeri, Kazakh, Uyghur, etc.), but these new bordered constructs sat uneasily alongside wider language communities, particularly with regard to literary practice. This panel analyses literary tastes, styles, and genres, canon-formation, cultural “cringe,” and literature as a tool of language reform, focusing on writers’ negotiation between local vernaculars (nationalized or unrecognized), older cosmopolitan prestige languages (Persian, Chaghatai, Ottoman, Arabic) and their neighboring nationalized forms (eg. Farsi), synthetic koine languages (the pan-Turkist project), and the languages of political domination that exercised increasing cultural hegemony (Russian, English, Chinese).

Panel 2: The Organization of the Arts in the Soviet “East”, 1917-1941

This panel will discuss theoretical and structural forms of organization, which emerged after the revolution and the transnational exchanges among writers, thinkers and artists that they generated. Moving beyond the Russian cultural sphere it will trace the dialectic between the soviet “international” and the national republics in Caucasus and Central Asia (as well as the Volga) and the ways in which the local “East” generated transnational connections beyond the borders of the USSR. These transnational networks were met with the challenge of navigating the diverse multilingual populations of the USSR and its neighbors. In this spirit, this panel focuses in particular on the politics and aesthetics of translation and the relationship between word and image.

Panel 3: Stakhanovite, Conqueror, Saint: Heroes in Central Asia

This panel discusses Central Asian heroes of the Chinese and Soviet cultural revolutions. It analyzes points of continuity and discontinuity between pre-Soviet heroes and the Soviet leaders of socialist construction. It also seeks to address the changing relationship between culture and life, as Central Asian workers and writers took these Stakhanovites, saints, and conquerors as models for emulation. As a result, special attention will be given to heroes’ representation in media including poetry, story, song, and film.

Panel 4: Border Crossings: Intellectual and Cultural Exchange

Margin and crossroads, between the wars Central Eurasia served as a test-site for utopian planners and as a fertile soil for cultural and ideological exchange. At times, the young Central Asian states emerge as the center of crucial intellectual circuits or feedback loops, transforming the inputs in unpredictable and consequential ways. The papers on this panel will address how ideas traveled from metropolitan centers (be they in the Soviet Union, Turkey or elsewhere) to Central Asia, the transformations they underwent in Central Asian space, and their further ramifications both in Central Asia and in their places of origination.

Panel 5: Stalinism in Central Asia: Collectivization, Modernity and Tradition

“Total Collectivisation” was the most ambitious, wide-ranging and traumatic of several policies undertaken by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the interwar period. Conceived and planned with the specific economic, social, and environmental features of European Russia in mind, collectivization was nonetheless also implemented across the nomadic steppes, mountain pastures and oasis valleys of Central Asia. But did the doctrine of class warfare, on which collectivization was predicated, ever really “take” in Central Asia? Who were the agents, who were the stakeholders and beneficiaries of radical social change at the local level? What were the practices of governance, social dynamics and cultural forms that emerged following the upheaval of the interwar period?

Panel 6: Language Policy, Language Contact and Cultural Change

This panel brings together anthropologists (musical, linguistic) and linguists to discuss the effects of Russian cultural and linguistic hegemony over the Turkic-speaking autochthonous population of Central Eurasia, from the October Revolution until the Great Patriotic War. Some issues examined include planned Soviet linguistic policies leading to russification, as well as organic language shift and change through natural contact, linguistic and cultural resistance, and the emergence of “new” linguistic identities (and their attendant cultural manifestations) within the area and period considered.