English walnut fruit. Photo: Utah State University.
Emil Shukurov remembers what the great walnut forest of Central Asia was like. His first memory dates back to shortly after World War II, when expansion plans of the centralized Soviet economy had only barely touched remote valleys in southern Kyrgyzstan where tens of thousands of acres of walnut trees grew. It was—and is—a complex ecosystem that also hosts apple, pear and plum trees—130 species overall—and wild boars, deer, bears, owls, hawks and other wildlife, as well as farmers, herders and nomads descended from people who roamed the region for centuries. Continue reading →
In Bamiyan, Afghanistan, locals’ discussions on Hazara history and recent oppressions faced by Hazaras would often incorporate the meanings that two Buddha statues, built in the 6th and 7th centuries and destroyed on March 10 2001 by the Taliban, held for Hazaras. During my stays in Bamiyan between 2011 and 2013, some individuals recalled myths that explained the statues as symbolising the foundational ancestors of Hazaras, while others considered them to be nothing more than un-Islamic idols. Against the background of these myths, many locals pondered whether the destruction of the statues by the Taliban epitomised the suffering of Hazaras that reaches far into history. Continue reading →
Since I hail from Osh, which is known as one of the most religious cities in Kyrgyzstan, the news stories about hundreds of men and women from Central Asia leaving for jihad in Syria make me wonder what these news stories have to do with my own city? Since Central Asia is repeatedly portrayed as a fertile ground for religious extremism in both local and Western media, it is worth to have a look at how Islam is actually lived by those who are too often collectively suspected to conspire with extremist movements such as IS. Continue reading →
Pierre Bourdieu is undoubtedly one of the best known sociologists of the twentieth century, and a scholar whose work continues to influence sociology, anthropology, linguistics and philosophy, as well as social theory more generally. Born in Denguin, France, in 1930, Bourdieu attended the renowned École normale supérieure university in Paris. After his studies in Paris, he taught in a provincial school before being sent to Algeria in 1956, where he spent two years in the French army, and then two further years doing fieldwork and collecting data. After returning in 1960, he spent the majority of his life as a scholar in Paris, where he was a director of studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études and chair of sociology at the Collège de France. Continue reading →
I am very happy to introduce the first contribution of our special series of “My Take On…” titled “Social Science for Central Eurasia”. In this new format CESMI and the BBC Central Asia Service jointly seek to make the work and lives of important social scientist thinkers more accessible to a broader media audience. We also encourage our authors to reflect upon the explanations that these thinkers might have to offer for a better understanding of the contemporary societies of Central Eurasia. In order to provide accessibility across different linguistic settings the contributions are published in English, Kyrgyz and Uzbek. (Till Mostowlansky, editor “My Take On…”)
Emile Durkheim is widely considered the founder of the French school of sociology. He was born in 1858 in the small French town of Epinal, near the German border. Son of a rabbi and raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, he was meant to follow in his father’s footsteps. Young Emile, however, chose another path and, after a few setbacks, enrolled in the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris, the most prestigious institution of higher instruction in France. The years at ENS proved crucial. Not only did it inspire Durkheim’s intellectual development, it also shaped his political and religious views, which were increasingly informed by socialist ideas. Continue reading →