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Conference to Focus on Central Asia

By Andrea Estrada

Scholars from around the world will gather for a two-day conference examining issues related to Central Asia. The conference, titled “Centering Central Asia: Gender, State, and Nation,” is sponsored by the Center for Middle East Studies. It begins on Friday, April 24, in the MultiCultural Theater. It is free and the public is invited to attend.
“When we think of Afghanistan and its neighbors, we usually consider it to be a meeting point of several different regions — the Middle East, South Asia, and Central Asia,” said Dwight Reynolds, professor of religious studies and director of the Center for Middle East Studies. “But recent events have demonstrated very clearly that we must come to understand how these countries interact as a region among themselves. One clear signal of the difficulty here is that we do not even have a term in English for the region.”
One of the reasons for the lack of clear designation is that national borders do not coincide with languages, ethnicities, and religions. “The national boundaries as we know them don’t correspond to the distribution of languages, ethnic groups, or religious communities,” Reynolds said.
The focus of the conference will be threefold. It will address the issue of the nation-state, which interacts with concerns regarding security; examine gender, which is a major topic throughout the region; and explore religion and the transformation of Islam in the region.
Among the conference participants are plenary speakers Janet Afary and Olivier Roy. Afary, currently a distinguished professor of history and women’s studies at Purdue University, will be the first holder of the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Chair in Global Religions and Modernisms in the Department of Religious Studies. A specialist in modern Iran, she will speak on “The Sexual Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran” at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 25, in the McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB.
Roy is the research director of the French National Center for Scientific Research and a lecturer at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. He will give a talk titled “Imposing Emancipation: What Is the West Doing There?” at 4:30 p.m., also in the McCune Conference Room. One of the leading experts on political Islam, Roy is currently a visiting professor in the political science department at UC Berkeley.