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Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Prof Catherine Alexander

Alexander, C. (2015). Central Asia, Anthropology of. In International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (Second Edition). Wright, J. Elsevier. 3: 316-322.

Author(s) from Durham


Since the end of the Soviet Union and with improved access to the region, the anthropology (in the Western tradition) of Central Asia has taken off. Recently, there has been greater acknowledgment of local sources, archives, and scholars. Moving from a sense of Central Asia as an isolated area, a variety of approaches have begun to theorize the region as partly integrated with other regions and traditions: Islam, Turkic and nomadic peoples, Southwest Asia, and postsocialist and postcolonial areas. An emphasis on past and current migrations and trading networks to, from, and within the area further stretch the idea of Central Asia and reveal the complex lived experience of ethnic groups – often at odds with nation-state ethnoterritories. Debates continue as to the extent to which clan organization informs current elite politics and pre-Soviet traditions are reemerging intact, in hybrid forms, or were wiped out. The main focus of studies has been on religion, politics, and ethnicity. Further research is needed on new economic and other inequalities, industry, labor, and the environment.