Cholpon Turdalieva, Anthropology dep. professor

"Anthropology is a science without bottom and borders."

- Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Kant, in the Chui region, which was famous for its sugar factory (Kant means sugar in Kyrgyz. My parents contributed heavily to my education and future. They always supported my passions when I was young. I was a member of chess club, played in parody shows, sang soviet hits, and improvised historical stories. At university I decided to study history because I loved looking at historical documents, working in the archives, comparing information, and participating in scientific conferences. After graduating, I worked at a school, and then at Kyrgyz National University. In 2000 I defended my Candidate dissertation, and in 2009 my Ph.D.

Since 2000 I have been director of the “Center of Museum Initiatives” which trains museum managers, helped restore the Shakh-Fazl Islamic monument from the 11th century, and conducted research of bio-cultural diversity in Naryn region. All of these projects gave me the chance to learn about the cultural, material wealth, and inexhaustible spiritual heritage of the Kyrgyz people, one of the most ancient peoples in the world.

I am also a member of the Commission for Researching the History of Kyrgyzstan under the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, and a member of the Dissertation Council at the National Academy of Sciences in the Kyrgyz Republic, where I supervise 6 applicants. I have participated in the Fulbright program, and I have won research grants from OSI – CARI, CARTI, and CDC. I have published 2 monographs and more than 20 scientific articles.

- Why do you work at AUCA now when you could be working almost anywhere?

Before AUCA I was dean of Kyrgyz State University. My job was mainly administrative and bureaucratic. In 2006 I received an invitation from AUCA, and I felt it was a good opportunity for me to grow. Since that time I’m grateful to be part of a modern and dynamic university, which is one of the three best universities of Central Asia. I like the words of the computer genius Steve Jobs, “My job is not to be soft with people. My job is to make them better”. AUCA gives professors opportunities to become better and stronger both professionally and personally.

- What courses do you teach?

The History of Kyrgyzstan; History of Central Asia; and Anthropology of Kinship, Nations and Cultures of Central Asia.

- Anthropology is a rare profession. What kind of jobs can graduates find in Kyrgyzstan?

Here anthropologists can find themselves in institutions such as international organizations, universities, and embassies. For instance, our graduates are working in the US Embassy, IREX, ACCELS, and several NGOs and businesses. Of course, the labor market in Kyrgyzstan and in Central Asia is not always offering well-paying positions for anthropologists, but around the world, we are in demand in several areas such as social planning, migration policy, minority groups, poverty control, and social development. For example, the director of International Monetary Fund, Jim Yen Kim, is an anthropologist.

- How are AUCA students different from students of other universities?

The mathematician Pythagoras said, “Waking up in the morning, ask yourself: what do I need to do?In the evening before going to bed, ask: What have I done?”Most of our students follow his words. They are active, energetic, and pragmatic. They have initiative, compassion, intellectual flexibility and communication skills. I do believe that our students and graduateswill be a guarantee of prosperity for Central Asian countries.

- What advice would you want to give to potential students of the Anthropology department? What is necessary to enter to this department?

I want to paraphrase the words of an outstanding thinker of the 11th century Jusup Balasagyn, “Cognition is a sea without bottom and borders.” Anthropology is a science without bottom and borders. The world has a lot of unexplored and unknown knowledge about humanity, culture, language, habits, and traditions, sitting there for our students to discover. Secondly, students have the chance to go on archeological excavations and ethnographic expeditions. Finally, universities and research institutions in the USA and Europe need postgraduates and applicants from our region, because they bear the unusually rich and diverse culture of Central Asia.

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

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