September 29, 2012
The first annual conference of the Central Asian Studies Institute at AUCA initiated a discussion on the state of scholarship on and in Central Asia. The goal of the upcoming second conference is to explore how we make sense of the region by taking the alleged boundary between “formal” and “informal” Central Asia as a starting point. As the terms themselves are being hotly debated elsewhere, this conference firstly encourages scholars to look at the nature, scale and legitimacy of such a binary division. It then calls for the deeper analysis of “formal” and “informal” institutions and identities, which are believed to be of key importance in understanding the processes of socio-political and cultural transformation in the region. How have the Central Asian states succeeded in establishing themselves as legitimate power institutions? How should one account for the variations and similarities among Central Asian states and societies in the development of state and non-state institutions and in the construction of their national and local identities? To what extent do the family and kinship based socio-cultural identities remain important in determining the politics in the region? Whether and how have the twenty years of independent statehood transformed regional institutions and identities, and what are the implications for the years to come? Finally, if the concepts of “formal” and “informal” are questioned, what other alternative discourses can be employed to create richer and more complex understanding of the region?