Admission to (one of) the programme(s) listed under Part of in the information bar on the right.
If you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student of (one of) the listed programme(s), please contact the Education Coordinator.
The most unexpected innovations and fusions of world’s religions and material culture have taken place along the trade and communication networks known today as the Silk Roads. Term coined by the German geologist Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877, the Silk Road has attracted much scholarly interest in recent years. The aim of this course is to provide an overview of the incredible cultural importance of Central Asia, defined as the five post-Soviet republics, including the region of Khorasan, present-day Afghanistan, Xinjiang and Mongolia. The artistic vibrancy of the empires that stretched from China to Byzantium was reflected in their cultural production. Their artistic excellence combined with exquisite decorum was the product of continuous exchanges, mixing and melding of traditions.
Further, the course will offer a broader understanding of the concept of common heritage and multiple identities across Central Asia. Students will analyse cultural memory practices used by the contemporary Central Asian elites as a tool for boosting ethno-nationalism. Aside from the rehabilitation of powerful historical figures as national heroes, the value of cultural memory practices lies in the transmission of beliefs, values and collective acts of cultural remembering. How can these practices and local historical contingencies provide a better understanding of the search for national identities in modern Central Asia?
Students will be introduced to twelve topics related to the material culture along the Silk Roads. Artefacts across the vast Central Asian urban landscapes and steppes will be analysed as material carriers of cultural memory. Starting from the Achaemenid Dynasty (6th c. AD), through the early formative era of Islam up to modern times, the analysis will show the construction of a multi-faceted cultural oecumene. To what extent has Islamic practice been a cohesive or a divisive factor in shaping the relationships between sedentary and nomadic societies along the Silk Roads? Why has the revival of Islamic communities (after the collapse of the Soviet Union) become the centre of governmental cultural policies across modern Central Asia?
Upon successful completion of the course you will:
grasp the diversity of the Silk Roads cultural networks, their organization across natural and human-imposed boundaries, and their evolution under the influence of political, religious, economic and social changes;
gain insight into ideological practices creating national identities and transforming the cultural spaces along the Silk Roads in modern Central Asia;
be able to provide empirical analysis of tangible and intangible heritage along the Silk Roads;
evaluate the international discourses on transforming cultural spaces through modernization, tourism and globalization.
The timetables are available through My Timetable.
Mode of instruction
Please NOTE that there are EXTRA online meetings for this course, related to guest lectures organized by LUCIS and the Central Asia Initiative. Exact overview (dates, venues, times) will be provided in the syllabus.
Assessment and weighing
|Active participation in the class meetings and discussions
|Critical analysis of literature and source information, including weekly written assignments (500 words)
|AQCI written assignment: Argument, Question, Connections and Implications (1000 words)
|Research proposal case study (1000 words)
|Term paper 5000 words for MA students
Term paper submission
The final paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version.
All assignments should be submitted through Brightspace.
Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower) and the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient paper, a resit of the paper is possible (40%). In that case the convener of the course may assign a (new) topic and give a new deadline.
A resit of the other partial assessments is not possible.
Hansen, Valerie. 2016. The Silk Road. A New History with Documents. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Frankopan, Peter. 2015. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Sela Ron and Scott C. Levi. 2010. Islamic Central Asia: An Anthology of Historical Sources. Indiana University Press.
Cummings, Sally. 2012. Understanding Central Asia. London: Routledge.
Additional literature will be provided via the syllabus.
Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory for:
MA Middle Eastern Studies students: the number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served. Priority is given to students who started with the MA programme in 2023-2024.
MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) students who opt for the Research MA version of the course. The number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.
Students from the other MA programmes listed under Part of in the information bar on the right, need to contact their study adviser for information on the enrolment procedure. After admission they will be registered by the Education Administration Office Vrieshof.
For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar ont the right.
For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office de Vrieshof.
Please note that the additional course information is an integral part of this course description.
The course is offered as part of the Central Asia Initiative at Leiden University.