Local Knowledge and Environmental Sustainability in Central Asia

Open to the Public
Nador u. 9, Faculty Tower
Thursday, October 14, 2010 - 2:30pm
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Thursday, October 14, 2010 - 2:30pm to 4:00pm

The CEU Asia Research Initiative (ARI), the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, and the Department of International Relations and European Studies cordially invite you to the first event in the AY 10/11 ARI Seminar Series:

Local Knowledge and Environmental Sustainability in Central Asia
Speaker: Prof. Siddharth Saxena (Cambridge University, UK)
Day&Time: Thursday 14 October, 2.30-4pm
Venue: FT908

Abstract: The long-standing symbiotic relationship between the peoples and landscapes of Central Asia is being steadily eroded. Traditional networks and knowledge systems have been pushed aside by the dominance of a globally driven discourse of modernity. In the case of Central Asia, there has been an imposition of numerous trajectories of modernity: starting with the Soviet version of central planning and the subsequent shift to post-Soviet transitions; to the increasingly ubiquitous notion of Western modernity with its particularistic trappings of an insensitive development path; and including a growing relevance accorded to reformism in religion as a new basis of organising society.  Current global agendas such as WTO have further deepened the crisis. These new agendas have been the drivers for the casting and recasting of knowledge into categories of traditional and modern creating new disjunctures and meanings.

This talk is based on a project centred on the evidence that nascent locally-developed solutions to both the environmental and the associated knowledge crises already exist.  Through collaboration with local actors and institutions, we seek to facilitate the articulation of local methodologies and responses to the challenge of modernity and share them locally, regionally and internationally.

The project brings together the common concerns of local communities, national institutions and international researchers, over the continued relegation of local knowledge and the compartmentalisation of holistic knowledge systems that have traditionally informed bio-diversity practices in Central Asia.  In particular it responds to the consistently expressed criticism from the region that current initiatives in health, education, agriculture and other sectors, conducted in the name of ‘modernity’ and admittance to the ‘global’ community are seriously flawed because they are not premised on cultural considerations: an omission that jeopardises both ownership and sustainability. This presentation will focus on field findings and case studies from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Bio: Prof. Siddharth Saxena is Chairperson of the Cambridge Central Asia Forum and Honorary Secretary of the Committee for Central and Inner Asia. He studied in anthropology, history and physics.  His research interests are in the areas of religion and identity, knowledge systems and institutional history of Central Asia and the Middle East. He is a Fellow of Jesus College, University of Cambridge. www.cambridge-centralasia.org