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Seminar on Central Asian Nomadic Pastoral Societies
CEUS-R 712
Nazif Shahrani

Seminar examines nomadic pastoralism both as a form of subsistence strategy or an economic system of adaptation to ecologically marginal environments, and as a mode of sociopolitical adaptation to socioculturally heterogeneous regions of Central Asia. Also examined are: the changing role of nomadic peoples in the economic and sociopolitical history of Central Asia, and a critical assessment of the methodological and theoretical contributions anthropological studies of nomadic pastoral societies have made both to the disciplines of anthropology and history and to the better understanding of the dynamics of contemporary societies in Central Asia.

The first part of the seminar will be devoted to a critical reading and discussion of some of the pertinent historical and ethnographic literature on Central Asian nomadic pastoralism. For the second part, the students will be directed to critically assess the theoretical and conceptual relevance of the entire corpus of seminar readings to their own research interests focusing on a significant issue in nomadic pastoral societies --e.g., sex and the construction of gender roles and ideas, feuding and warfare, land tenure and the structure of political economy, leadership and political processes, relations with sedentary societies and the states, religion and ritual practices, marriage and family organization, herd and pasture management techniques, law and social control, persistence of nomadic pastoralism in the modern period or other topics of interest to students. They are required to present their reflections and research findings to the class for critical discussion.

Required Texts (some titles may vary):

Barfield, Thomas The Nomadic Alternative.
Barfield. Thomas The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires in China.
Lattimore, Owen Inner Asian Frontiers of China.
Bacon, Elizabeth Obok: A Study of Social Structure in Eurasia.
Lindner, Rudi Nomads and Ottomans in Medieval Anatolia.
Swift, Jeremy & Robin Mearns, eds. Nomadic Peoples: Mongolian Pastoralism on the Threshold of 21st Century.
Benson, Linda & Ingvar Svanberg China's Last Nomads: The History and Culture of China's Kazakhs.
Shahrani, M. Nazif The Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan.Martin, Virginia Law and Custom in the Steppe: Middle Horde Kazakh Judicial Practices and Russian Colonial Rule, 1868-1898.
Salzman, Philip C. When Nomads Settle: Processes of Sedentarization as Adaptation and Response.

Course Requirements:

A critical written report of the reading assignments for each week (about 2-3 double spaced typewritten pages) highlighting the most significant points (positive and negative) about the authors' approach in the text(s). These brief weekly reviews are due in my office by 1:00pm on Tuesdays. Students are also expected to actively participate in class discussions, lead class discussions, make an oral presentation of the term project, and submit a term paper on the term project. The term project will consist of a review essay consisting of: 1) critical reading, detailed assessment and synthesis of all required readings for the seminar; and 2) serious and reasoned reflection on how the theoretical, conceptual, methodological and substantive issues covered in this seminar will (or will not) be useful to your own specific topics or fields of research interests and why. The essay should be about 20 typed pages (double-spaced).