Central Eurasia-related courses taught by CCES members in the Spring Quarter 2015 are listed below, although many other relevant courses are available at the University of Chicago within numerous departments and programs. For more specific logistical details, visit the University of Chicago time schedules page.
Shamans and Epic Poets of Central Asia
ANTH 25906, NEHC 20766/30766, EEUR 20766/30766
W 12:00 – 3:00
Central Asia has been inhabited for millennia by diverse peoples, including those whose ways of life have been described as “nomadic”, and whose religious or spiritual traditions have been dubbed “shamanistic”. In this course, we explore the area broadly known as “Central Asia”, paying particular attention to its populations which descend from nomadic” and/or “shamanist” peoples. We examine the relationships between music and oral epic, performed by the “bard”, and “shamanic ritual”, performed by the “shaman”. We can examine the relationships between “shamanist religion” and “book religions”, which have helped shape some of the syncretic religious traditions in Central Asia. We will also take a comparative look at “shamanism” on a global scale. Keywords: “shamanism”, “animism”, “oral tradition”, “epic tradition”, Turkic peoples, Mongols, Siberian peoples, “religious syncretism”, “verbal and musical healing”.
Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic
TR 3:30-5:50 p.m.
The experiences of Armenians under Turkish state rule from the early centuries of Ottoman monarchic rule to the first decades after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. This course will be offered on a compressed schedule, in a four-week intensive format, beginning 10 May 2016.
Colloquium: Ending Communism
This course focuses on the demise of one of the most enduring, ambitious, appealing, transformative, and destructive political ideologies. We will consider the collapse of communism as a religion, an aesthetic, and a way of life; an economic system and a material culture; a political structure and an international order. We will also discuss communism’s afterlives in biographies and memoirs (including those of scholars). Topics include reforms and revolutions, political and cultural dissent, generations and languages, secrecy and publicity, travel and immobility, competing religions and rival ideologies, the Cold War and détentes, privileges and shortages, apartment blocks and palaces of culture, the Gorky Park, the Memento Park, and other Luna Parks. Our readings will range across Europe, focusing primarily on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the last forty years of the twentieth century.
Imaginary Worlds: Fantastic, Magic Realism, Russian & Balkan Lit
In this course, we will ask what constitutes the fantastic and magic realism as literary genres while reading some of the most interesting writings to have come out of Russia and Southeastern Europe. While considering the stylistic and narrative specificities of this narrative mode, we also think about its political functions –from subversive to escapist, to supportive of a nationalist imaginary–in different contexts and at different historic moments in the two regions.
Europe Betw Black & Baltic Seas, Betw Russ & EU
The Soviet Union
This lecture course surveys the making and unmaking of the Soviet Union as a society, culture, economy, superpower, and empire from 1917 to 1991. The Soviet Union began as an unprecedented radical experiment in remaking society and economy, ethnic and gender relations, personal identities, even human nature, but in the course of its history, it came to resemble other (capitalist) societies, sharing, in turn, their violence, welfare provisions, and consumerism. The story of this transformation–from being unique and exhilarating to being much like everyone else, only poorer and more drab–will be at the center of our exploration. The main themes of the course include social and cultural revolutions; ideology and the role of Marxism; political violence from the birth of the socialist state to the end of the Stalin terror; origins, practices, aesthetics, legacies, and critiques of Stalinism; law, dissent, and human rights; nationality policies and the role of ethnic minorities; the economy of shortages and the material culture it created; institutions of daily life (communal apartments, courtyards, peasant markets, dachas, and boiler rooms); socialist realism and the Soviet dreamworld.
The Merchant in Chinese Literature, History, and Thought
Throughout Chinese history, the merchant has been held up as the greedy, crass antithesis of the noble gentleman. However, the frequent derision of the merchant belies the cultural importance and complex social identities of those who traded for profit. This course will examine representations of merchants from ancient times to the present day in materials ranging from historical annals and religious tracts to novels and paintings. We will explore how the merchant has been constructed, condemned, and redeemed through scholarly and state discourses, as well as how merchants themselves have used these elite discourses for their own ends. All readings will be in English and no prior background is required.
Cities in Sinophone Cinemas
From the treaty port of Shanghai to the imperial capital of Beijing, from the pre-colonized city of Taipei to the floating city of Hong Kong, and from an anonymous city in inland China to global Chinatowns, cities in Chinese-language cinemas at once reflect and participate in the historical transformations of modern China and the negotiation between national, local, and cosmopolitan identities. Meanwhile, throughout its history, the motion-picture medium has shown an affinity with the city as an audio-visual ensemble, which in turn has provided constant inspiration for cinematic experimentation. Taking the chronotope of the sinophone city as an entry point, this course participates in both the ongoing discussion of cinematic cities and the emerging discourse on the phonic articulation and visual mediation of a global sinophone culture. No knowledge of Chinese is required.
Frontiers and Expansion in Modern China
A study of frontier regions, migration, and border policies in Qing (1644-1912) and twentieth-century China, focusing on selected case studies. Cases will include both actual border regions (where Qing/China was adjacent to some other polity it recognized), ethnically diverse internal frontiers, and places where migrants moved into previously uninhabited regions (e.g., high mountains). Topics include the political economy and geopolitics of migration and frontier regions, the formation of ethnic and national identities in frontier contexts, borderland society (e.g., marriage, social stratification, and social mobility), and the environmental effects of migration. Assignments for undergraduates are two short papers, a midterm (which can be waived under certain circumstances), a final, and class participation; requirements for graduate students are negotiable, but will include roughly twenty pages of writing and no in-class exams.
Imagining Environment in East Asia
This course explores how nature and environment have been narrated, aestheticized, conceptualized, and historically exploited in East Asia, with specific emphasis on China, Korea, and Japan. We begin with some basic questions about the human-environment relation. What is it to imagine environment and one’s relation to it? How have “nature” and “environment” been imagined historically in East Asia? Can we learn about our own perceptions of the non-human world by studying those of other times and places? The course will consider ethical and religious attitudes toward nature as found in traditional religious and philosophical thought; changing aesthetic responses to the natural world; the rise of modern environmental awareness; popular and political responses to pollution and environmental disaster; contemporary practices of environmentalism (eco-tourism, conservation); and the imagining of environmental futures. Materials will be drawn from literature, history, anthropology, philosophy, environmental policy, and film. All readings are in English.
Reading Buddhist Scripture as Literature: The Lotus Sutra
The Lotus Sutra, an early Mahayana Buddhist scripture that propounded startling new Buddhist beliefs and practices, is one of the most influential and widely read scriptures in the world, especially in East Asia: Its champions have touted it as profoundly meaningful, beautiful, and emancipatory. How and why is it good to read? To answer these questions, we will read an English translation of the work over the first half of the course, alongside some scholars who say that it should be read “as literature.” After completing our initial reading of the Lotus, we will turn to thinkers who attempt to destabilize our notions of what “reading,” “Buddhism,” “literature,” or “scripture” can even be said to consist of. As a final project, we will weigh in by developing our own readings of the Lotus, its history of interpretations, or the course itself. All texts in English.
Asian Wars Of The 20th Century
This course examines the political, economic, social, cultural, racial, and military aspects of the major Asian wars of the twentieth century: the Pacific War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. At the beginning of the course we pay particular attention to just war doctrines and then use two to three books for each war (along with several films) to examine alternative approaches to understanding the origins of these wars, their conduct, and their consequences.
Buddhist Thought: India/Tibet
The purpose of this course is to introduce students to something of the range of Buddhist philosophical thought and doctrine that developed in first-millennium India–developments that were decisive for the philosophical curricula of still vibrant Tibetan traditions of Buddhism, which may also be considered.Â The aim will be not only to appreciate the history of these developments, but also (and especially) to engage them philosophically, taking them seriously in the same way that (e.g.) Aristotle and Kant are still taken seriously in philosophy departments.
Sovereignty: Histories and Concepts
This course offers a historical inquiry into the concept of sovereignty. While we will pay some attention to its articulation as a doctrine in early modern Europe, the focus of the course will lie elsewhere. We will begin by asking what the study of concepts and their history entails. We will go on to look at histories of commerce, warfare, diplomacy, courtly culture, religion, ideas, and aesthetics in the large empires and early colonial establishments of Asia and the Middle East from between about 1600 and 1800. We will ask how these histories might offer answers to questions raised by recent scholarship on sovereignty, both as a historically specific doctrine and as an analytical concept of much wider interest. Readings will consist of a mixture of historical studies and theoretical and primary source materials.
Revolutionary Indian in a Global Context
Intro to Buddhism
This course will be an introduction to the ideas and meditative practices of the Theravada school of South and Southeast Asian Buddhism, from ancient to modern times. It will study both classical texts and modern ethnography.
Transmission of Islamic Knowledge in South Asia since 1800
Third Year Tibetan-2
Readings: Advanced Tibetan-3
Elementary Modern Armenian-1
TR 12:00-1:20pm W 12:30-1:20pm
The Elementary Modern Armenian course is a 3-quarter sequence class. We start in the Fall and proceed through Spring for the Elementary level. The course utilizes advanced computer technology enabling the students to master a core vocabulary, the unique alphabet and basic grammatical structures in a fun setting, to achieve a reasonable level of proficiency in Armenian. A language competency exam is offered at the end of spring quarter for those taking this course as college language requirement. A considerable amount of historical-political and social-cultural issues about Armenia and Armenians are built into the course for students who have intention to conduct research in Armenian Studies or related fields or to pursue work in Armenia. This is a unique opportunity to study one of the oldest Indo- European languages in an academic setting and partake in the rare linguistic and cultural experience that the Armenian class has to offer. The classes are in small groups placing the students in a very advantageous environment that accelerates their learning and language acquisition.
Intermediate Modern Armenian-1
This three-quarter sequence enables the students to reach an Intermediate level of proficiency in the Armenian language. The course covers a rich vocabulary and complex grammatical structures in modern formal and colloquial Armenian. Reading assignments include some original Armenian literature and excerpts from mass media. A considerable amount of historical-political and social-cultural issues about Armenia are skillfully built into the course for students who have intention to conduct research in Armenian Studies or related fields or to pursue work in Armenia.
Advanced Modern Armenian-1
This three-quarter sequence enables the students to reach a much higher level of proficiency in the Armenian language. Reading assignments include a large selection of original Armenian literature and excerpts from mass media. Students are exposed to various dialects of Armenian, including Western Armenian and local dialects, as well as colloquialisms. Students are encouraged to engage in discussions and debates led in Armenian, and write essays on the materials read for class.
Tu/Th 12:00-1:20; W 10:30-11:20
Kazak, or Kazakh, is a Central Turkic language spoken natively by 12 million people in the Kazakh Republic, as well as by significant populations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the PRC, in Mongolia, in Uzbekistan, Turkey, Russia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. One of the Turkic languages in which Turkic heroic epics have been sung for centuries, Kazakh preserves many of the features of the ancient Turkic language of Central Asia. A language wherein eloquence, accuracy and precision are very highly prized, Kazakh is known for its lyrical beauty and its extremely rich oral tradition. Traditional Kazakh culture combines elements of the pre-Islamic Turkic way of life, as well as elements of Islam (specifically Sufism), and themes common to Eurasian nomads from the Urals to the Altai mountains and beyond. While the nomadic horse-riding ancestors of the Kazakhs formed the military and political backbone of several successive Turkic states in Central Asia, modern Kazakhstan is a developed, multi-ethnic, resource-rich (especially oil and gas) and technologically-oriented country, with a literacy rate approaching 100%.
Kazakhstan boasts a blossoming artistic scene, including a refined film industry, a sophisticated literary scene, and well-developed theatre. The Kazakhs visibly value literature and the arts, and almost every Kazakh can recite poetry or play the dombra, the national instrument. During Soviet and post-Soviet times, while the television channels of some other Soviet republics broadcast hour after hour of reports on industrial and agricultural production, Kazakh TV carried on with documentaries about famous literary and artistic figures. The traditional Kazakh dwelling, known as yurt in English and üy in Kazakh, is almost entirely made by women. Made of felt, leather, and wood, it can be set up and broken down in under 45 minutes, is highly portable, and can provide comfortable living for a family year-round, despite the wide temperature extremes that characterize the climate of Central Eurasia. Although most Kazakhs today are apartment dwellers, many maintain yurts for use on important occasions.
The language is taught at the Elementary and Intermediate levels at the University of Chicago, while Advanced Kazakh is available on demand. A knowledge of Kazakh greatly facilitates the acquisition of other related Turkic languages, such as Tatar, Bashkir, Kyrgyz (Kirghiz), or Uzbek. The class is arranged, though in all likelihood it will take place late morning to early afternoon on Wednesdays, once a week. The instructor, Kagan Arik, is a Turkic languages specialist, language pedagogue, and an anthropologist of Central Asia and Turkic-speaking cultures, who has been at the University of Chicago since 2000. He teaches Turkish language and literature, Uzbek, Kazakh, Old Turkic, and courses on the anthropology, folklore and ethnomusicology of Central Asia.
Introduction to Old Turkic
Old Turkic is the language of the Kök Türk Empire, and of the ancient Uyghurs. This class, which has a prerequisite of one year of Turkish or another Turkic language, will feature the texts of the Orkhon Monuments from the 8th Century, in the original, with Latin alphabet transcriptions, as well as the original runiform Old Turkic letters. The class is also a good way to explore the diplomatic, political and military history of the relations between the Turkic Khaganate, Sui & Tang Dynasties China, and neighboring states. As a language study, Old Turkic is an interesting foray into the roots of Turkish and other Turkic languages, and helps to add an interesting dimension to one’s background in Turkic, which can be helpful for advanced students, as well as those wishing to deepen their understanding of Ottoman, especially in its earlier forms, and of the Chagatai literary language of Central Asia. Lots of in-class reading & discussion, no exams and not much homework, but a short (5 pp) paper is expected at the end of the quarter. The class is arranged, and open to graduate and undergraduate students. Please address any inquiries to the instructor, Dr. Kagan Arik.