American University of Central Asia - AUCA - Elective courses


CA 610 Literature in Imperial and Soviet Central Asia

This course will survey the development of literature in Central Asia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, examining Russian authors who made Central Asia their focus as well as indigenous artists who attempted to make sense of imperial and Soviet realities. A seminar in literary art, it will focus on introducing students to the growing secondary literature on this subject as well as providing them an opportunity to read select portions of seminal literary texts in English translation like Yuri Dombrovsky’s The Keeper of Antiquities. While focusing on existing scholarship, the course is also meant to expose students to the wide variety of literary prisms that might be applied to the artistic traditions of Central Asia in these periods and to help them imagine works of literary art as something other than passive reflections of their social and historical context. Looking at Central Asian literature in distinct historical settings, the course also strays outside this framework to explore literary art in other imperial and Soviet contexts and to brings studies of literature into conversation with analyses of architecture, painting, and film.


CA 657 Urbanism in 19th and 20th century Central Asia

This course explores the development of cities and urban environments within Central Asia from the onset of the Russian conquest in the 19 th century until the present day. Through a series of case studies, it strives to reveal the broad ideas and movements that continually transformed cities in the region. Readings illustrate how urban areas were often shaped by foreign concepts and trends such as colonialism, modernism, socialism, cosmopolitanism and eventually capitalism/globalism. The course emphasises the way local actors reacted to, adapted to and indeed often led these changes. Wherever possible, Central Asian trends are linked and compared to contemporary global ones such as the ‘’garden city’’ movement to highlight unique or common aspects. A special class will also give an overview of the situation in neighbouring Xinjiang where traditional settlements are being quickly destroyed and replaced by planned cities. Although this course uses a historical approach, it is structured thematically to reveal how specific ideas and practices evolved over the imperial, Soviet and post-independence periods

CA 658 Art and Ethnography in Imperial and Soviet Eurasia

This course will examine ethnographic literature and painting in Eurasia and the interplay between these art forms and ethnographic knowledge. A survey of the role of art in collecting, classifying and labeling native historicities, it explores what it means for one culture to represent and depict the reality of another. We will survey literary and pictorial examples of ethnographic artworks like Platonov’s Soul and the expedition notes and sketches of Shokan Valikhanov, looking at the ways in which art and ethnography overlapped and blurred together in the study and appropriation of native traditions. We will also examine key secondary literature and relevant theoretical texts, including Edward Said’s Orientalism and Erik Mueggler’s Paper Roads, to ensure students leave the course with an effective toolbox for studying the complex, indeterminate encounters between art and indigenous realities in imperial and Soviet Eurasia.

CA 659 The History of the Eurasian Steppe

This course will survey the rich and varied scholarship on the Eurasian steppe, focusing on its major nomadic confederations and the indigenous works of art and literature this sprawling geography has produced. Tracing its history from the emergence of the Türk Empire to the collapse of the Golden Horde, it will survey steppe imperial traditions, the structures of nomadic life, the impact and spread of Islam, and interactions between nomadic and sedentary societies. A major point of focus will be the complexities of identity in a geography in which traditions were folded together or layered one on top of the other and in which plural heritages often fused to form “sprawling nomadic confederations of complex ethnic and linguistic antecedents.”  The class will alternate between sessions on seminal works of scholarship such as the Perilous Frontier and Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde and others exploring indigenous works of art and knowledge like the Dīwān Luγāt at-Turk, Kāşġarī’s sprawling compendium of the Turkic languages.

American University of Central Asia
7/6 Aaly Tokombaev Street
Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic 720060

Tel.: +996 (312) 915000 + Еxt.
Fax: +996 (312) 915 028
AUCA Contacts