Thursday, November 10, 2005

Lack of Academic Knowledge Production on Central Asia

I have already noted that the conference on cotton in Central Asia I attended at SOAS had very few academics present. In fact out of 20 participants only the two organizers and one other person had university positions. Everybody else worked for various NGOs, IFIs or was an independent free lancer. Mind you this was an international conference hosted and funded by a major European academic institution to deal with recent scholarship on a region of the world much in the news as of late. Yet, as Deniz Kadiyoti, one of the organizers of the conference noted, very little knowledge production about Central Asia is taking place in universities and other academic institutions. Instead the vast majority of important research on the region is being done by people other than university professors.

Even more telling was the position of tenured US professors at the conference. There were none. A full twenty percent of the participants were from the US and not one of them had a university position. The lack of serious research on Central Asia by tenured deadwood from US universities does not surprise me. There are very few universities that have programs dealing with Central Asia despite the heavy US diplomatic and military involvement in the region. Even more depressing is that almost all the programs that do exist are geared towards ahistorical IR and political science studies. The number of positions for historians of Central Asia in the US is extremely small. The fact that I was the only historian at the conference is a sharp commentary on the total failure of US universities in this matter. I got my Ph.D. from SOAS and have found it impossible to find a job in the US. American Universities are too busy providing employment for genocide deniers like Mark Tauger to bother with the production of knowledge about the history of Central Asia.


Anodyne said...

Sorry to go off topic on you. Did you get a chance to get the lowdown on Akiner at SOAS?

J. Otto Pohl said...

I asked Alisher Ilkhamov about it. He says it was not considered a big deal at SOAS. The ban on smoking in the pub and the termination of the specialist librarians for China and Japan were the big stories. Iskander Abdullaev said it got almost no play in Uzbekistan.