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The Family in the History of Central Asia. Understanding Cultural and Demographic Changes.

Symposium | Details | Programme |Abstracts Location


Organizers: Sophie Roche, Said Reza Kazemi, Swetlana Torno from the Junior Research Group "Demographic Turn in the Junction of Cultures"

The symposium takes place from November 26—28, 2014 at the Internationales Wissenschaftsforum Heidelberg (IWH)

Publication: The Family in Central Asia: New Perspectives

(Russian version soon to be found here)

In pre-Soviet Central Asia, the main distinction in family types went along economic niches. While Turkic nomadic populations maintained large clan structures, families in urban centres in the Ferghana Valley and the Bukharan Emirate were organised hierarchically with some of them holding a strong sense of lineage belonging and others referring to concepts of belonging based primarily on territorial identification or profession. In the Soviet era, new notions of family and kinship were introduced, mainly from Russian and German ethnographic traditions. Since the 1990s, however, Central Asia (including northern Afghanistan and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) has developed into a dynamic site of migration. In fact, refugees, economic migrants and students have turned the region into a global network of cultural entanglements where not only people but also commodities and concepts are on the move. Migration from Central Asia has also diversified geographically as apart from Russia, other Muslim countries have increasingly attracted young migrants in search of work (most importantly the UAE) and education (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India, the US, Europe, etc.). Mobility is, however, not restricted to the recent period: over centuries periods of high mobility have alternated with periods of low mobility, affecting cultural and demographic forms of families.

This symposium takes an interdisciplinary approach, ranging from inquiries in history, political science, philosophy, Islamic studies, ethnology, medicine/public health, sociology and the GIS (Geographic Information System) methodology, to the study of the family in the history of Central Asia by bringing together new research and old theories and experiences on the concept of family. On the one hand, we intend to recall how Soviet scholars interpreted changes in the family in Central Asia and contrast this with research on the family before and after the Soviet Union. On the other hand, we aim to adopt a whole range of diverse methodological approaches to investigate family-related issues in Central Asia, including the state-family interface in terms of state interventions into the domestic sphere, reproduction, the status of women and the impact on the family of larger politico-security developments; family in migration and resulting changes or lack thereof in family concepts (e.g., descent) and practices (e.g., dowry, bride price); adaptations in family to changing conditions such as nutrition and religion; and the evolution and globalisation of family forms and relationships across time and space. Through these various methodologies we intend to access and study the dynamic changes that have shaped the region over several centuries. The family, in this context, opens concrete and flexible perspectives to address these questions.


The conference results will be published in a collected volume with Klaus Schwarz Verlag, Berlin, in 2016. A Russian online, open access sister publication will follow in 2017.


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