Reset building anthropology in Eurasia, 2007-2010

Regional Seminar in Excellence of Teaching /HESP/OSI
Building Anthropology in Eurasia

Host Institution:             Aigine Research Center
Secondary co-hosts:    Program on Central Asia and the Caucasus, Harvard University
Dept. of Anthropology, American University-Central Asia

Directors:       Aida A. Alymbaeva (Aigine)
John Schoeberlein (Harvard)

The main goals of the ReSET are following:
Goal 1. To foster the development of anthropological knowledge and approaches, as this may be useful for anthropologists in the region, as well as scholars in related fields.

Goal 2. To contribute to the development of teaching capacity in anthropology in the region through practical work in curriculum development, training in course design, activities to develop anthropological approaches to teaching, and furthering field research that can serve as an important component of the learning experience and the instructor’s intellectual makeup.
Goal 3. To help establish a network of linkages to the field of anthropological scholarship — linkages between ideas, institutions and individuals in international scholarship, on the one hand, and those who could benefit from anthropology in Eurasia, on the other.

The participants in the ReSET are a group of 27 representatives of the young generation of scholarship who are actively involved in teaching in fields related to anthropology.  We hope to draw a wide range of different scholars, from those who are seeking to build careers in anthropology to those who can use anthropological approaches in their related fields of scholarship.  Our participants are from “Central Eurasia” — Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Georgia, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Southern Russia, and Western China.

The groups of university teachers in Eurasia that we consider could benefit include:
a)        those who are actively working to build the field of anthropology in the region, as they themselves “become anthropologists” and teach anthropology.
b)        those who work in fields already established in the region which have some conceptual overlap with anthropology, such as ethnography, ethnic sociology, “kulturologiia” and other humanities fields.
c)         those who work in fields such as history and political science, which in the West have undergone strong influence from anthropological theory and methodology, but in which Eurasian scholars have little direct knowledge of the field.

The purpose is to provide an opportunity for participants to integrate anthropological understandings and methodologies into their own research and teaching, as well as to develop teaching strategies and methods, which are in use in anthropological teaching institutions internationally, as applicable for their own contexts.  We expect this experience will provide participants with concrete experience on which they can build their own pedagogy, as well as help them to orient themselves in international anthropology and anthropologically-influenced scholarship.

Building Anthropology in Eurasia is three-year program which will progress as follows:

The first year’s theme, The Growth of Anthropological Knowledge, will be an exploration of:
a)         the ways that anthropology came to be formulated as a field (history of anthropology),
b)        the way that anthropology is acquired by its practitioners and how they come to formulate their anthropological projects (a survey of training, research and writing in anthropology),
c)         the ways that the work of thinkers and schools in anthropology constitute the basis for introducing our students to the field (pedagogy and the development of anthropological ideas and approaches),
d)        the ways that a set of key issues (representation, authority, ethics, etc.) constitutes the basis for both anthropological scholarship and teaching in anthropology,
e)        the ways that the ReSET participants can build their own involvement in anthropological teaching and research, and
f)          the ways that the field of Eurasian anthropology can grow in its various dimensions of institutional development, and the growth of knowledge, as it furthers a deeper understanding of the region and provides themes that can impact the broader field of anthropology.

The second year’s theme, “Anthropology’s Cutting Edges,” focuses on the ways that anthropology is currently made exciting, and how scholars who are currently pursing research on the PhD or other levels make their work attract attention by engaging the broader discourse, as well as how other fields draw inspiration from anthropological approaches.

The third year’s theme, “Putting Anthropology to Use,” is an exploration of the ways that anthropological ideas and approaches form the basis of the concrete work — both academic and applied — which amounts to “anthropology’s impact.”  There will be a particular focus on cross-disciplinary influences (e.g., between political anthropology and political science, historical anthropology and cultural and social history, etc.), as well as on the ways that anthropologists can make their approaches and knowledge relevant to addressing the problems of the day (e.g., sustainable development, educational reform, conflict avoidance, etc.).

Working Language
For several reasons, we will conduct all activities in English:  First, our target group extends beyond the Russian-language sphere and knowledge of English is the only thing that can overcome barriers among the group.  Second, some core and resource faculty will not have other regional languages (incl. Russian) and it is crucial that participants have unmediated interactions with these faculty.  Third, English is the overwhelmingly most significant language for publication in anthropology internationally, and the availability of key works in translation is entirely inadequate to allow one to gain entrйe into the field without knowledge of English.  Fourth, effective engagement with anthropology requires not only reading, but also active networking, for which there is no substitute for a good knowledge of English.


  1. Gulnara Aitpaeva, Doktor filologicheskikh nauk, Director of Aigine Research Center.
  2. Aida A. Alymbaeva, Instructor, Dept. of Anthropology, AUCA; Researcher, Aigine Research Center.
  3. Theodore C. Bestor, PhD in Anthropology (Stanford); Professor of Anthropology, Chair of Social Anthropology, Dept. of Anthropology, Harvard University.
  4. Arienne Dwyer, PhD in Altaic and Chinese Linguistics (U. of Washington); Asst. Professor, Dept. of Anthropology, Univ. of Kansas, USA.
  5. Michael Herzfeld, PhD in Anthropology (Harvard), Professor of Anthropology, Dept. of Anthropology, Harvard University.
  6. John Schoeberlein, PhD in Anthropology (Harvard), Director, Program on Central Asia and the Caucasus, and Lecturer on Anthropology, Harvard University.
  7. Mukaram Toktogulova, Kandidat filologicheskikh nauk, Acting Associate Professor, Dept. of Anthropology,  AUCA.
  8. Nathan Light, PhD in Folklore and Anthropology (Indiana Univ.); Postdoctoral Fellow, Havighurst Center, Miami University of Ohio, USA.