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Central Asia in World History Dear Colleague Letter

Dear Colleagues:
It is our pleasure to introduce Central Asia in World History and welcome you to apply to become one of the twenty-five NEH Summer Scholars to join us at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, July 15-27, 2012. This Institute will provide participants with a firm foundation in the defining features of Central Asian history and the region’s historical connections to larger, global processes from the ancient Silk Road to the modern day.
 
Situated at the heart of the so-called Silk Road, the peoples of Central Asia witnessed numerous invasions, migrations, and exchanges of religions and cultures, goods and technologies. In addition to connecting the great civilizations on the Eurasian periphery, the region also gave rise to world empires of its own in antiquity and the medieval era, and served as the playing ground for the Anglo-Russian “Great Game” in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As an NEH Summer Scholar you will be immersed in the history of Central Asia through a series of presentations by experts in the field, analysis of both narrative and documentary source materials, screenings and discussion of relevant films, immersion in traditional food and music of the region, and the development of unit plans for classroom use.
 
Geographically, Central Asia stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to East Turkestan (modern day Xinjiang, China) in the east, and from the steppes of Russia in the north to northern Afghanistan and northeastern Iran in the south. This region has long been exoticized in the West — and in the East — and it has captivated the imagination of many. But until recently, with few exceptions, those whose work has engaged the region have tended to rely on historical sources produced elsewhere. Institute participants will explore the ways that relying heavily on works produced by authors stationed in the civilizations on the Eurasian periphery has obscured our understanding of the region, leading many to idealize its inhabitants or dismiss them altogether as timeless barbarians.
 
In recent decades, especially following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Central Asia has become more open to outsiders and it has attracted serious attention from scholars trained in the region’s languages and social history. With the improved accessibility of the Central Asian archives, we can now point to a growing body of literature has made substantial achievements in improving our understanding of the region’s history and society, the complex relations that Central Asians have had with their neighbors, and the region’s larger contributions to world history.
 
In addition to its historical significance, Central Asia represents an extraordinarily important geopolitical zone in the post-Soviet, twenty-first century world. The region is embedded in the events and conflicts that unfold in Russia and the Caucasus, China, Iran and Afghanistan. It is home to groups of militant Islamists, some of whom aim to transplant the Taliban revolution to their own soil. Since the late 1980s, we have also seen a rise in ethnic nationalism and recurrent waves of politically motivated ethnic violence that have led to the deaths of many thousands of people and the displacement of many more. Additionally, the region boasts rich reserves of natural gas, and the support of the region’s dictatorial leadership has been crucial to our nation’s war effort in Afghanistan. 
 
Structure of Institute
Beginning on Monday, July 16, 2012, Institute participants will meet daily, Monday through Friday, beginning at 9:30AM for a period of two weeks. Institute activities include a Central Asian banquet and concert scheduled for Saturday, July 21. The Institute will consist of a series of thematic presentations and workshops led by a panel of specialists in the field, listed below. These will be organized in a generally chronological manner and supplemented by video presentations and cultural events. It will also include a significant component on the examination of strategies for teaching the history of Central Asia. Our aim is to immerse participants in the topic and give them the confidence to take the material back to the classroom.
 
The Institute will begin with a brief survey of the historical, anthropological and religious background necessary to navigate Central Asian history. Paramount among these is the pastoral nomadic way of life and the complicated interactions between nomadic and sedentary peoples. We will explore the Silk Road primarily as a medium for cultural exchange, as travelers exported Buddhism from India to Central Asia and on to China, where it found a remarkably receptive audience. We will also look into the transmission of other faiths along the Central Asian caravan routes (Manichaeism, Nestorian Christianity and, later, Islam), as well as the transfer of technologies, artistic styles, knowledge and information, and more.
 
Our attention will then turn to a more focused analysis of Central Asia in the medieval period, exploring such major social transformations as the gradual association of Central Asian peoples with the Islamic faith and the concomitant “Turkicization” of the region as wave upon wave of Turkic nomads migrated from the steppe to the southern sedentary areas, and further into the Middle East and Anatolia. We will then shift our attention to the thirteenth-century unification of the nomadic tribes under Chinggis (Genghis) Khan and the cataclysmic Mongol conquests, which culminated with the establishment of the largest contiguous empire in the history of the world.
 
We will then look at the early modern era (sixteenth through eighteenth centuries), a contested period in Central Asian history, especially in regards to the ways that the region remained (or failed to remain) interactively engaged to the outside world. Assigned readings will analyze the traditional position that European commercial interests in the Indian Ocean trade in some way usurped the Central Asian “Silk Road” trade and cast the region into a lengthy period of isolation and cultural stagnation. We will contrast this with readings in primary sources and more recent studies that suggest our region remained vital, artistically productive, and very much involved in world historical processes.
 
In the final segment of the Institute, we will study the friction that emerged between representatives of the region’s “traditional” Islamic heritage and “reformist” social leaders determined to transform and modernize Central Asian society at the turn of the twentieth century. As modern, post-Soviet Central Asians struggle to find their place in the greater Islamic world, this will equip participants with an improved understanding of the unique qualities of Central Asian Islam and the multiple roles that religion continues to play in Central Asian societies today.
 
Institute Director
Scott Levi, Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University, is author of the book The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and its Trade: 1550-1900 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2002). This volume examines the emergence, social organization, and decline of an Indian merchant diaspora in Central Asia and the role that the Indian merchants played in Central Asian society. His most recent volume is the co-edited, with Ron Sela, Islamic Central Asia: An Anthology of Historical Sources (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010). This collection of fifty-five extracts from primary source documents will be used as one of the primary texts of the Institute.
 
The past two summers, Professor Levi has taught a week-long series of seminars on historical methodologies to several dozen Central Asian postdoctoral teachers and researchers at the Central Asia Research and Training Initiative’s Intensive Summer School and Academic Writing Workshop held in Budapest, Hungary (2009) and Akbuk, Turkey (2010). He is eager to share with you stories and photographs from his time living in India, Pakistan and Central Asia. Additionally, he knows his way around the kitchen as you will see in his cooking demonstration “Culinary Adventures Along the Silk Road.”  
 
Institute Faculty
 
Carter Findley, Humanities Distinguished Professor in Ohio State’s Department of History, is recognized as a leader in the field of Islamic history, specifically the late Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East. A past president of the World History Association (2000-2002), his volume, The Turks in World History (Oxford: Oxford University Press) won the British-Kuwait Friendship Society Prize for Middle East Studies in 2006.
 
Adeeb Khalid, Jane and Raphael Bernstein Professor of Asian Studies and History at Carleton College, studies the history of the sedentary societies of Central Asia from the time of the Russian conquest of the 1860s to the present with particular interest in the transformations of culture and identity as a result of historical change. His volume, Islam after Communism: Religion and Politics in Central Asia (Berkeley: University of California Press) won the Wayne S. Vucinish Book Prize for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian and East European studies in 2008.
 
Nurten Kilic-Schubel, Associate Professor of History at Kenyon College, is a specialist in political culture, state formation, and Islam in medieval and early modern Central Asia. She has published multiple articles on Central Asian history in both English and Turkish, and has a forthcoming book on the political culture of Uzbek Central Asia in the sixteenth century.
 
Timothy May, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and Central Eurasian History at North Georgia College and State University, specializes in the Mongol Empire and other nomadic based empires. He has authored The Mongol Art of War (Yardley, PA: Westholme, 2007), and his next book, The Mongol Conquests in World History (c.1200-1350), is scheduled to be in print later this year.
 
Daniel Prior, Assistant Professor of History at Miami University of Ohio is widely published in Inner Asian history, nomadic culture, and oral heroic poetry. Dr. Prior’s current research relates to the history of northern Kirghiz chieftains (manaps) during the period of Russian colonial expansion into the region in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
 
Ron Sela, Associate Professor in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, is author of The Legendary Biographies of Tamerlane: Islam and Heroic Apocrypha in Central Asia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011). His research focuses on the history and historiography of Islamic Central Asia in the sixteenth to twentieth centuries, political and cultural self-representation in Central Asian sources, and Central Asia’s role in the history of the Islamic world.
 
Applicant Profile
 
Teachers from various humanities disciplines will benefit from participation in the Institute. Primarily, we will seek out teachers in the fields of world history, the social sciences, geography, and Asian Studies. We will also consider full-time graduate students pursuing a K-12 teaching career for participation.
 
Assignments
 
The following materials will be made available to NEH Summer Scholars prior to the Institute. You will be expected to be prepared for discussion of assigned readings as indicated in the schedule.
 
Rafis Abazov, The Palgrave Concise Historical Atlas of Central Asia (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
Peter B. Golden, Central Asia in World History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)
 
Scott C. Levi and Ron Sela, eds, Islamic Central Asia: An Anthology of Historical Sources (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010).
 
Course Packet
 
As an NEH Summer Scholar you will be expected to create unit plans based on the material and teaching strategies presented during the Institute that you determine to be most useful in your classroom instructions. Development of unit plans will occur throughout the Institute and colleagues will have opportunities to share their findings on the concluding day. Discreet blocks of time will be set aside for Summer Scholars to conduct research in the OSU Thompson Library and for individual consultation with the institute director, coordinator, and master teacher. We will publish all unit plans on the Institute website.
 
Academic Resources
The Ohio State University Libraries boasts a collection of nearly 6.2 million volumes, receives over 90,000 serial titles, and maintains over 1,300 digital collections. The William Oxley Thompson Library on the OSU main campus provides materials and services related to the humanities and social sciences and it houses the majority of the Middle East and Islamic Studies Collection including over 100,000 books on history and culture; on the religion of Islam throughout the world; and on the Arabic, Persian, and Turkic languages and literatures. This collection is managed by the Middle East Studies department with Dr. Ali Hassan serving as the Arabic/Islamic Studies Librarian and Dr. Dona Straley serving as the Persian and Turkish Librarian.
 
Housing
We have made arrangements for Institute participants to stay at the award-winning Holiday Inn Express & Suites for the negotiated price of $107.99 per night. The hotel is situated very near the OSU campus, and a short walk from restaurants, shopping, and other necessary services. Each room includes a refrigerator and microwave, and the hotel features free wi-fi, a twenty-four hour business center, laundry facilities, fitness center, complimentary breakfast buffet, complimentary shuttle service and more. We will endeavor to facilitate arrangements for those who wish to share a room. For information on reserving a room at the Holiday Inn, go to the Accommodations page. Please see the hotel website at http://www.stayholidayosu.com/ for more information.
 
For participants who opt to stay elsewhere, Experience Columbus, the Greater Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau's web site, provides up-to-date information on the hotels, motels, and many affordable bed-and-breakfast inns in the Columbus area as well as restaurants and activities. 
 
Participants will have the option of purchasing a meal plan for $28.50/day that will give them access to seven different dining options on campus. In addition, the university is situated along High Street, which offers a wide variety of casual restaurants. Those driving to campus will need to purchase parking passes through Transportation and Parking.
 
Stipend
NEH Summer Scholars receive a stipend of $2,100 to help cover travel expenses and the cost of housing. The first check in the amount of $1,050 will be disbursed the first week of the Institute and the second check will be disbursed at the conclusion of the Institute. Please note that stipends may have tax consequences.
 
Credit
Participants may receive three graduate credits for the institute by enrolling in HIST 7193 (Seminar in History) during Summer Semester 2012 (The Ohio State University has not yet released the tuition schedule for Summer). Those enrolled in this course will be required to complete additional research-based writing and instructional assignments. NEH Summer Scholars will also receive a letter and certificate as documentation for in-service credit and/or professional development hours.
Status of NEH Summer Scholars at The Ohio State University
NEH Summer Scholars participating in the Central Asia in World History Institute will be designated by the University as “visiting scholars” to ensure access to computer labs, library holdings, and research databases.
Application Procedure
Applicants should consult the eligibility guidelines provided on the NEH site: http://www.neh.gov/projects/si-school.html.
 
Please note that the most important part of the application is the essay. This essay should discuss your reasons for applying to Central Asia in World History, your relevant personal and academic information, your qualifications to do the work of the project and to make a contribution to the Institute, what you hope to accomplish, and how the work of the Institute will benefit your teaching.
 
To begin your application, go to the following NEH web site: http://www.neh.gov/online/education/participants/. Follow the links to the on-line cover sheet for Summer Programs for School Teachers, fill it out, and then print it. For additional information go to the Apply page. We cannot accept any application material via fax, e-mail, or as an attachment to e-mail.
 
Your completed application should be postmarked no later than March 1, 2012, and addressed as follows:
 
Kristina Ward
Department of History
The Ohio State University
106 Dulles Hall
230 W. 17th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
 
As the NEH application guidelines state, successful applicants will be notified of their selection on Monday, April 2, 2012. You need to let us know where you will be on this date if it is different from the contact information you give on your application.
 
We look forward to hearing from you,
 
Scott Levi                   Kristina Ward

Central Asia in World History