The conference In Empire’s Long Shadow: Modern Constructions of Central Eurasia, 1900-1941 will be held at The Franke Institute for the Humanities at The University of Chicago on February 26-27, 2016. There will be a number of papers presented about Nazim Hikmet, Pushkin in Central Asia, Khayyam in Tajikistan, Genghis Khan in the Soviet literary imagination of the 1920s and 30s, Uzbek mass culture, Buryat literature, Azeri theater and opera, Cultural Revolution Heroes in Xinjiang, Altai as Literary Language and more
As empires crumbled in the wake of World War I, Central Eurasia underwent revolutionary change that rippled through Iran and the Turkish Republic to the Soviet republics of Central Asia and Transcaucasia and across Xinjiang, Mongolia, and Siberia. Political developments and the formation of national institutions were accompanied by rapid changes in culture, most strikingly in language, literacy, gender and religion. By the beginning of World War II, Central Eurasia had taken shape as a set of ethnically-defined territorial units. This unprecedented political order produced equally unprecedented cultural forms. The legacies of colonialism and rapid modernization continue to pose major challenges, even after many of these states became fully independent in 1991.
In recent years the University of Chicago has become home to a group of innovative young scholars – both faculty and PhD students – working on issues related to the modern construction of new cultural institutions, practices and histories in Central Eurasia. This conference has been designed to showcase their work and bring them into dialogue with leading senior scholars in the field, while also opening up the particular issues of modern Central Eurasia for discussion by colleagues within the Committee for Central Eurasian Studies and from across the University.
Friday, February 26th
FRANKE INSTITUTE FOR THE HUMANITIES – 1100 EAST 57TH STREET
9:30am- First Keynote Lecture
“Nazım Hikmet’s Future Past: Communist Mediations Between Turkey and the Soviet Union,” Nergis Ertürk (Penn State University)
11:00am- Hegemonic Languages and Local Literatures in Central Eurasia, 1905-1941
Chair: Sam Hodgkin (University of Chicago)
“How Tatiana’s Voice Rang Out Across the Steppe: (Dis)Orienting Pushkin in Soviet Central Asia,” Naomi Caffee (University of Arizona)
“O Communist Khayyam!: Persian Canons in the International Turkic Revolutionary Press,” Sam Hodgkin (University of Chicago)
“Developing and Debating Soviet Buryat Language and Literature,” Melissa Chakars (St Joseph’s University)
Discussant: Harsha Ram (University of California, Berkeley)
2:00pm- The Organization of the Arts in the Soviet “East” 1917-1941
Chair: Eleonor Gilburd (University of Chicago)
“A Cultural Revolution from the ‘East:’ The Influence of TatLEF and the Kazan School on the Soviet Avant-Garde,” Angelina Lucento (Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia)
“From Progressive to People’s Artist: Jadidist Influence in Early Soviet Azerbaijani Theater and Opera,” Kelsey Rice (University of Pennsylvania)
“Folklore as Device: On Vertov’s Three Songs of Lenin,” Nariman Skakov (Stanford University)
Discussant: Leah Feldman (University of Chicago)
4:00pm- Stakhanovite, Conqueror, Saint: Heroes in Central Asia
Chair: Claire Roosien (University of Chicago)
“Zulfiya’s Shock Worker and the Making of Uzbek Mass Culture,” Claire Roosien (University of Chicago)
“Genghis Khan and Analogous Conquerors of the East in the Literary Imagination of the Soviet 1920s and 1930s,” Katerina Clark (Yale University)
“Super-Soldiers, Selfless Shepherds: Cultural Revolution Heroes in Xinjiang,” Joshua Freeman (Harvard University)
Discussant: Robert Bird (University of Chicago)
Saturday, February 27th
FRANKE INSTITUTE FOR THE HUMANITIES – 1100 EAST 57TH STREET
9:30am- Second Keynote Lecture
“Writing Central Asian History in the Shadow of Empire,” Adeeb Khalid (Carleton College)
11:00am- Border Crossings: Intellectual and Cultural Exchange
Chair: Robert Bird (University of Chicago)
“The Hamidian Massacres and Ottoman Reactions to the 1905 Pogroms in the Russian Empire,” Toygun Altintas (University of Chicago)
“Internal Borders, Internal Enemies: Soviet Nationalities in the History of Belomor Canal,” Mieka Erley (Colgate University)
“Russia and the Middle East, Twentieth-Century Connections,” Eileen Kane (Connecticut College)
Discussant: Holly Shissler (University of Chicago)
1:45pm- Stalinism in Central Asia: Collectivization, Modernity and Tradition
Chair: Flora Roberts (University of Tübingen)
“Kazakhstan’s ‘Little October’: The Attack on Kazakh Elites, 1928,” Sarah Cameron (University of Maryland)
“Agitation for the Kolkhoz: Constructing Stalinist Socio-economic Transformation from below in Uzbekistan,” Marianne Kamp (University of Wyoming)
“Millionaire kolkhozes, Soviet satraps: collectivized cotton in the Tajik Ferghana Valley,” Flora Roberts (University of Tübingen)
Discussant: Faith Hillis (University of Chicago)
3:45pm- Language Policy, Language Contact and Cultural Change
Chair: Kagan Arik (University of Chicago)
“Qut and Umeniye: Russian Hegemony and Central Asian Cultures,” Miriam Tripaldi (University of Chicago)
“Developing a New Literary Language: The Case of Altai,” Milan Simic (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
Discussant: Uli Schamiloglu (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
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.