Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) or the MA Asian Studies (research) or another relevant Research MA. Students from other (regular) MAprogrammes are kindly referred to the course description of the regular MA course.
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
Attendance is compulsory for all sessions. Students must prepare well and contribute to in-class discussion. If a student cannot attend because of illness or misadventure, they should promptly inform the convener. Extra assignments may be set to make up for missed class time, at the convener’s discretion. The extra assignment for this course is a 500 words summary of an article assigned as reading for the missed class. Absence without notification may result in lower grades or exclusion from assessment components and a failing grade for the course.
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.
Students should familiarize themselves with the notion of academic integrity and the ways in which this plays out in their own work. A good place to start is this page. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students may not substantially reuse texts they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.
Students must submit their assignment(s) to Brightspace through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.
ChatGPT: What is possible and what is allowed? Dos and Don'ts.
Assessment and weighing
|Active participation in the class meetings and discussions||10%|
|Critical analysis of literature and source information, including weekly written assignments (500 words)||10%|
|AQCI written assignment: Argument, Question, Connections and Implications (1000 words)||20%|
|Research proposal case study (1500 words)||20%|
|Term paper (8,000 words for Research MA students)||40%|
In order to pass the course, students need a pass mark (“voldoende”, i.e. “5.50” or higher) for the course as a whole.
The research paper is written in two stages: a first version, on which the convener will offer feedback, 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.
Students must complete the assignment(s) on time Late submissions will result in a deduction of marks for the assignment as follows: 1-24 hs late = -0.5; 24-48 hs late = -1.0; 48-72 hs late = -1.5; 72-96 hs late = -2.0. Submissions more than 96 hs late, including weekends, will receive a failing grade of 1,0 for the assignment.
All categories of assessment must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.
Only if the total weighted average is 5.49 or lower and this is the result of a paper graded 5.49 or lower, a re-sit of the paper is possible (40%). In that case the convener of the course may decide to assign a (new) topic. The deadline for this version will be determined by the course convener, after consultation with the student.
A re-sit for other course components is not possible.
Inspection and feedback
Feedback will be supplied primarily through Brightspace. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the assessment results, a review will be organized.
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.
For the Research MA students additional reading will be determined by the convener at a later stage depending on the topics of the LUCIS/Central Asia Initiative lectures/masterclasses and taking into account the students’ fields of interest. Extra sessions will be organized to discuss this extra literature as part of LUCIS/Central Asia Initiative master classes.
Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
The deadlines in MyTimetable are set for administrative purposes only. The actual dates are as listed above.
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.
The course is offered as part of the Central Asia Initiative at Leiden University.