University of Oregon Course: Central Asia from Within

The Registan mosque in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

The Registan mosque in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

I’m excited to be able to offer a class on Central Asia at the University of Oregon from August 19 through September 6 (2-3:50 p.m., M-F). Yes, it’s short and intense, but those who enroll can anticipate stimulating daily discussions about an eventful period in history and the literature it produced.

In the last half of the 19th century, the Great Game contest for Central Asia was drawing to a close with Russia’s conquest of the present-day “-stans.” A new era was commencing for this region of ancient cultures and empires. Voices, both Russian and Central Asian, were calling for educational, social and religious reform.“Central Asia from Within” will explore this era of dramatic change through the autobiographical writings of Central Asians, including:

  • Sadriddin Aini, the “father” of modern Tajik literature and the only jadidist (Central Asian reformer) to die of natural causes after the Bolshevik revolution.
  • Mukhamet Shayakhmetov, a Kazakh nomad whose memoir documents the devastating famine and disruption of traditional lifestyles among Kazakhs under Stalin’s regime.
  • Chingiz Aitmatov, a prominent Soviet-era Kyrgyz author, many of whose novels, essays, and short stories have been translated into English.
  • Rajab Amonov, a leader of academic folklore in Tajikistan under the Soviets, whose boyhood memoirs of the 1920s and ‘30s have been translated into English for the first time.

In addition to readings on the historical context of these works, class discussions will consider the differing emphases, perspectives, interests, and literary styles of the individual writers. If you live in the area, I hope you can join us!

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