central Asia class grad school

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In 1991 there was much hope that the Soviet‑era totalitarian society and command economy in Central Asia would be replaced with market-based democracies.  Yet, after a decade of independence it is obvious that transition in Central Asia has been not toward democracy and pluralism, but to different forms of authoritarianism.  The course focuses on domestic and international politics of the five Central Asian states -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.  It will analyze the causes of the failed political and uneven results of economic transitions, discuss the growing role of Islam in domestic politics, and examine the growing geopolitical significance of the region following the development of its hydrocarbon resources and the events of September 11, 2001, and the start of the operation “Enduring Freedom.” It will examine the implications of the ‘multi-color’ revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan for political development of the region.  The course will cover such issues as the development and transportation of Caspian basin oil and gas resources, the role of Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan play in regional politics.

Required literature

Pomfret, Richard.  The Economies of Central Asia.

Denoon, David, ed. China, the United States, and the Future of Central Asia.

Schatz, Edward.  Modern Clan Politics.

Recommended literature

Cummings, Sally.  Understanding Central Asia.

Collins, Kathleen.  Clan Politics and Regime Transition in Central Asia.

Harris, Colette.  Muslim Youth: Tensions and Transitions in Tajikistan.

Khalid, Adeeb.  Islam after Communism: Religion and Politics in Central Asia.

Sahadeo, Jeff and Zanca, Russell, eds.  Everyday Life in Central Asia.

Course Goals

The goal of the course is to focus on politics and society in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) since its independence in 1991. We will begin with a review of historical legacies that shape Central Asian societies and politics. We will then examine the emergence of the five independent states and assess political and economic reforms that have taken place since 1991. Particular attention will be paid to Islam and its role in everyday life and politics of Central Asian states. We will conclude with an investigation into the role played by outside actors in the region and their influence on domestic and foreign policies of the five countries.

In class, the emphasis is placed on the discussion of both the assigned readings and divergent interpretations of post-independence developments in the region.

Goals for Student Learning

At the conclusion of the course, the students will become knowledgeable about the main political actors in Central Asia and be able to navigate and analyze the complexities of Central Asian politics.

Course Requirements

Students should scan regularly http://enews.fergananews.com; http://www.eurasianet.org; http://www.rferl.org/section/central_asia/172.html; or other media sources for the coverage of events in Central Asia. As of September 24, each class will begin with a short discussion of the most recent developments in the region. 

  Students are required to submit a research paper (at least 30 pages long) at the end of the semester and actively participate in class discussions.  Research paper and class participation will account for 50% of the grade each.

Seminar papers

  Students have an option to convert their research papers into a seminar paper. The required length of a seminar paper is at least 45 pages. Title pages, works cited pages, and bibliographies do not count towards the page count for the paper. 


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