UCA Public Lecture Series – Summer 2010
The UCA Public Lecture Series, held in Bishkek, highlights emerging research and provides a forum for lively discussion and exchange of information.
Cultural History & Resilience in Badakhshan, Tajikistan
In June, UCA Senior Research Fellow Sunatullo Jonboboev gave a lecture on The Historical Destiny and Cultural Heritage of Badakhshan: Past and Present. Situated in the Pamir mountain range, the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) of Tajikistan borders with China, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan and is home to diverse ethnic groups including several Eastern Iranian ethnic minorities, known as Pamirians that include Shugnanis, Roshanis, Bartangis, Wakhis, Ishkashimis, and Yazgulamis, as well as, a small Kyrgyz minority that primarily reside in the district of Murghab. The lecture described the rich political, cultural, linguistic and religious identities of these communities, and examined how culture endures through the historic challenges of particular eras, including the Great Game, the Soviet Era, and the globalized world of the post-Soviet Era.
Prior to becoming a UCA Research Fellow, Sunatullo was the Senior Manager of the Faculty Development Programme at UCA’s Aga Khan Humanities Project and a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations, Aga Khan University (London). More recently, he was a Central Asian Fellow at the Giessen-Leibig University in Germany. He has also taught at Tajik Technical University, Khorog State University and Tajik State National University. Sunatullo graduated with a Candidate of Sciences degree in philosophy from the Institute of Philosophy and Law in Dushanbe. At UCA, his research focuses on the role and the condition of humanities education in Central Asia, and the history of Ismaili philosophy.
Environmental Impact of Uranium Mining & Milling, Kyrgyzstan
In July, UCA’s Central Asia Faculty Development Programme (CAFDP) Fellow, Zheenbek Kulenbekov, presented initial findings from his doctoral research on The Effect of Radionuclides from the Kadji-Sai Uranium Tailing Site on Water Resources. From 1952-66, northeast Kyrgyzstan experienced intensive mining and industrial activities, including uranium mining and processing. Lack of institutional monitoring and control meant that little is known about the environmental impact of uranium mining and milling. Zheenbek has analyzed and identified the pathways of dispersion of radionuclide waste to study the impact of the waste on the ecosystem. Primary data were collected and analyzed using Ion Chromatography, ICP-MS, Scanning Electron Microscope, Gamma Spectrometry, Remote Sensing and GIS tools. His findings will provide information to surrounding communities on possible risks related to land and water use, help design appropriate mitigation measures, provide a model for the study of other similar tailing sites, and develop policies on monitoring and control.
Zheenbek is enrolled in the PhD programme at the Technical University of Bergakademie Freiberg, Germany. He has a degree in physics from the Kyrgyz State National University, and is a certified Geographical Information Systems (GIS) specialist with over five years of experience working on international ecological projects. Since 2006, he has conducted research on radio- and hydro-ecology in the southern part of Lake Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan on which he has published both regionally and internationally.
Educational Testing and Linguistic Diversity, Central Asia
A second lecture in July was delivered by Todd Drummond, a doctoral candidate at Michigan State University, on Challenges to Multi-Lingual Assessment in the Central Asian Context. Todd’s current research assesses the validity of inferences based on multi-lingual testing, which poses particular challenges to measurement specialists, especially when languages used for assessment are from different language families. The presentation focused on contemporary research in this area, as well as specific issues in multi-lingual assessment in Central Asia, where countries are increasingly relying on standardized testing and other forms of assessment, in place of traditional oral examinations.
Todd is currently completing his doctoral work in education policy at Michigan State University, USA. His research interests include testing and assessment policy, the impact of assessment on schooling and learning, and political and measurement issues in multi-lingual testing. From 1998-2001, Todd served as the Director of American Councils for International Education, and from 2002-2005, he served as the Director of the National Testing Initiative (Obsherespublikanskoe testirovanie) in the Kyrgyz Republic. In 2002, he received an honorary award from the President of Kyrgyzstan for outstanding contributions to the development of the education system in the Kyrgyz Republic.
The Anthropology of Real Estate, Kazakhstan
In August, UCA CAFDP Fellow, Alima Bissenova presented a lecture on her doctoral research entitled The Discourse of Material Progress in Kazakhstan's Housing Boom. Following the financial liberalization of the 1990s, Kazakhstan saw a spectacular construction boom and an inflation of real estate assets, driven by internal and external investment. Her study investigates economic issues, such as investment strategies, urban planning, and housing regulations, from an anthropological point of view. Through ethnographic fieldwork in Almaty and Astana and at the AstanaGenPlan municipal planning office she examines how people’s vision about what constitutes normal/comfortable housing has changed since the end of the Soviet period and the new norms and values that drive people's housing strategies and state housing policies today. While the real estate and construction boom was made possible by the influx of capital into the real estate market, it was also produced by cultural and social factors such as the desire for new and different kinds of housing that were unimaginable under socialism, and newly entrenched aspirations for ownership and overestimation of the ownership of housing as a pillar of economic and social stability.
Alima is enrolled in the PhD programme in Anthropology at Cornell University in the United States. She has Bachelor’s degree in Kazakh Literature from the Karaganda State University and Master’s in Middle East Studies from the American University in Cairo. Her current research is on the construction boom and urban development in Kazakhstan. In addition to her academic work, she regularly contributes to the zonakz.net Kazakh national online newspaper and has her own blog at http://www.zonakz.net/blogs/user/alima_bisenova/
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