To Transfer, but Not to Serve? Central Asian Studies Inside Out

A Workshop Report

  • Florian Coppenrath (Autor/in)
  • Lena Heller (Autor/in)
  • Kyara Klausmann (Autor/in)
  • Elizaveta Kucherova (Autor/in)
  • Davlatbegim Mamadshoeva (Autor/in)
  • Mariya Petrova (Autor/in)
  • Björn Reichhardt (Autor/in)


“Central Asian Studies should be relevant, but not at the price of their independence” — such could be, in one sentence, the said result of the debate led by the early-career researchers taking part in the two-day workshop “Central Asian Studies Inside Out” (CASIO). On February 8–9, 2018, the workshop brought together masters and PhD students from different European universities at the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient and the Institute for Asian and African Studies at Humboldt University Berlin, to discuss knowledge transfer between Central Asian Studies on the one side and social and political actors outside of academia on the other. A core goal was to address a structural problem faced by Central Asian Studies: scholars of area studies produce knowledge of high social and political value, but it usually remains within very concise circles. Apart from only a few exceptions, such as the Central Asian seminar at Humboldt University, research on Central Asia in Europe is usually marginalized within wider disciplines and poorly connected, not to speak of the very limited access to expertise produced within the region itself. Organizing a workshop dedicated to the topic of Central Asian Studies and knowledge transfer was meant, then, as a way to underline the dynamics of the field and the mutual benefits of engagement with practitioners.
Thus, what do Central Asian Studies have to offer? As Botakoz Kassymbekova underlined in her keynote speech, a core role of the humanities and social sciences in dealing with Central Asia is to challenge the grand narratives on the region. In giving voice to previously unheard people and highlighting the unexpected, scholars can point to many realities missed out on by problem-oriented research. To do this, scholars need to get out of the “comfort zone” of their area studies. Indeed, given the funding threats that institutions like the Central Asian seminar at Humboldt University now face, scholars of area studies need to underline the relevance of their work for a wider audience.