“Methods, Fieldwork, and the (lack of) data deluge: A travelogue of Central Asian Scholarship” An inter-disciplinary survival guide

Open to the Public
Nador u. 9, Monument Building
Gellner room
Thursday, December 8, 2011 - 9:15am
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Thursday, December 8, 2011 - 9:15am to 4:30pm

You are cordially invited to a workshop hosted by


The Department of Internal Relations and European Studies


The Asia Research Initiative (ARI)

“Methods, Fieldwork, and the (lack of) data deluge:

A travelogue of Central Asian Scholarship”

An inter-disciplinary survival guide


Information saturation, or even ‘data exhaust’, where the amount of data generated grows Exabyte by Exabyte each year, has seemingly transformed business, government, and not last scholarship. While some of the aspects coming out of the ‘data deluge’ are welcome, namely access and especially ease of access to a larger amount of data, there are some issues that cause concern, including privacy breaches and the quality of information that has become available.

And yet, some regions, including post-Soviet Central Asia, the subject of this workshop have somehow been exempt from this deluge. In those areas data access, collection and ultimately analysis remain labor-intensive, time-consuming and quintessentially problematic processes, if occasionally rewarding ones.

This workshop takes stock of two decades of scholarship on post-Soviet Central Asia, an area largely off limits to foreign scholars in Soviet times. The dissolution of the Soviet Union, the opening of (some) archives, and greater possibilities for travel seemed to herald an era of easy access to local data, be it in the form of interview data, oral histories, surveys, or local language media. Instead, researching Central Asia remains a painstakingly long, if exciting, exercise.

Were this not enough, understanding and explaining the political, economic and social dynamics at play in the region seriously questions the contribution that any single discipline, or method for that matter, can make to shed light on such processes. The workshop proposes to combine a focus on the problems associated with data access with a discussion of how this problematic situation has ‘forced’ scholars to go beyond the tools normally associated with their disciplinary background and has led to the emergence of a truly multi- and inter-disciplinary field.


9.15-9.45 Registration (Octogon)

9.45-10.00 Matteo Fumagalli, Central European University (Hungary)

Introductory remarks

Panel I 10.00-11.15

Sally Cummings, St Andrews University (UK)

Self-legitimation in State Ideology: Data Dearth or Concept Neglect?

Alex Diener, Kansas University (US)

Complexities of Geographical Research in Central Eurasia

Ablet Kamalov, Turan University (Kazakhstan)

History-Writing in Post-Soviet Central Asia: Academic Approach and Limits of National Narratives

Coffee break 11.15-11.30

Panel II 11.30-13.00

Scott Levi, Ohio State University (US)

Central Asian History: Divergent Methodologies, Divergent Interpretations

John Schoeberlein, Harvard University (US)

White Wash, Brain Wash and Hog Wash: Evidence and the Political Analysis of Islam in Central Asia

Matteo Fumagalli, Central European University (Hungary)

Ethnography and IR: Migration, Security, and Foreign Policy

LUNCH BREAK 13.00-14.30

Panel III 14.30-16.30

Ed Schatz, University of Toronto (Canada)

What Doesn't Change with the Deluge

Zifa Auezova, Leiden University (The Netherlans)

Ideology and Censorship in 20th c. Soviet Central Asia

Mokhira Suyarkulova, St Andrews University (UK)

Doing fieldwork at home

Wojciech Ostrowski, Dundee University (UK)

Studies of the Politics of Oil in Central Asia