Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) or the MA Asian Studies (research) or another relevant Research MA. Students from other departments are kindly referred to the course description of the regular MA course.
The most unexpected innovations and fusions of world’s religions and material culture have taken place along the trade and communication networks known today as the Silk Roads. Term coined by the German geologist Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877, the Silk Road has attracted much scholarly interest in recent years. The aim of this course is to provide an overview of the incredible cultural importance of Central Asia, defined as the five post-Soviet republics, including the region of Khorasan, present-day Afghanistan, Xinjiang and Mongolia. The artistic vibrancy of the empires that stretched from China to Byzantium was reflected in their cultural production. Their artistic excellence combined with exquisite decorum was the product of continuous exchanges, mixing and melding of traditions.
Further, the course will offer a broader understanding of the concept of common heritage and multiple identities across Central Asia. Students will analyse cultural memory practices used by the contemporary Central Asian elites as a tool for boosting ethno-nationalism. Aside from the rehabilitation of powerful historical figures as national heroes, the value of cultural memory practices lies in the transmission of beliefs, values and collective acts of cultural remembering. How can these practices and local historical contingencies provide a better understanding of the search for national identities in modern Central Asia?
Students will be introduced to twelve topics related to the material culture along the Silk Roads. Artefacts across the vast Central Asian urban landscapes and steppes will be analysed as material carriers of cultural memory. Starting from the Achaemenid Dynasty (6th c. AD), through the early formative era of Islam up to modern times, the analysis will show the construction of a multi-faceted cultural oikumene. To what extent has Islamic practice been a cohesive or a divisive factor in shaping the relationships between sedentary and nomadic societies along the Silk Roads? Why has the revival of Islamic communities (after the collapse of the Soviet Union) become the centre of governmental cultural policies across modern Central Asia?
Upon successful completion of the course you will:
grasp the diversity of the Silk Roads cultural networks, their organization across natural and human-imposed boundaries, and their evolution under the influence of political, religious, economic and social changes;
gain insight into ideological practices creating national identities and transforming the cultural spaces along the Silk Roads in modern Central Asia;
be able to provide empirical analysis of tangible and intangible heritage along the Silk Roads;
evaluate the international discourses on transforming cultural spaces through modernization, tourism and globalization.
Mode of instruction
Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The conveners need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.
Please NOTE that there are EXTRA online meetings for this course, related to guest lectures organized by LUCIS and the Central Asia Initiative. Exact overview (dates, venues, times) will be provided in the syllabus.
| Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hours | 280 hours |
| -----------------------| ----------- |
| Regular seminars (2 hours/week x 12 weeks) | 24 hours |
| Extra sessions for Research MA students:
Compulsory lectures & masterclasses LUCIS/Central Asia Initiative | 6 hours | | Online lectures related to course topics (5 lectures x 2 hours each) | 10 hours | | Reading assignments | 100 hours | | Individual research case study (including reading and presentation) | 40 hours | | AQCI Writing assignment (1000 words) | 30 hours | | Field trips (2 trips x 4 hours each) | 10 hours | | Term paper (case study, 8,000 words) | 60 hours |
Students should familiarize themselves with the notion of academic integrity and the ways in which this plays out in their own work. A good place to start is this page. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students may not substantially reuse texts they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.
Students must submit their assignment(s) to Brightspace through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.
Assessment and weighing
|Active participation in the class meetings and discussions||10%|
|Critical analysis of literature and source information, including weekly written assignments (500 words)||10%|
|AQCI written assignment: Argument, Question, Connections and Implications (1000 words)||20%|
|Research proposal case study (1500 words)||20%|
|Term paper (case study, 8,000 words)||40%|
The final mark for this course is formed by the weighted average.
In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.
The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.
Term paper submission
The final paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version.
Students can submit the term paper (case study) as a draft on Wednesday, 6 January 2021. The instructor will provide comments by Wednesday, 13 January 2021. The final submission should be on Monday, 18 January 2021, 12:00 noon. Late submissions will not be accepted.
All assignments should be submitted through Brightspace.
Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower) and the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient paper, a resit of the paper is possible (40%). In that case the convener of the course may assign a (new) topic and give a new deadline.
A resit of the other partial assessments is not possible.
How and when a term paper review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the course results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the course results, a term paper review will have to be organized.
Hansen, Valerie. 2016. The Silk Road. A New History with Documents. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Frankopan, Peter. 2015. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Sela Ron and Scott C. Levi. 2010. Islamic Central Asia: An Anthology of Historical Sources. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Cummings, Sally. 2012. Understanding Central Asia. London: Routledge.
Additional literature will be provided via the syllabus and Brightspace.
For the Research MA students additional reading will be determined by the convener at a later stage depending on the topics of the LUCIS/Central Asia Initiative lectures/masterclasses and taking into account the students’ fields of interest. Extra sessions will be organized to discuss this extra literature as part of LUCIS/Central Asia Initiative master classes.
Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “USIS-Actnbr.”. More information on uSis is available in Dutch and English. You can also have a look at the FAQ.
Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the webpage on course and exam enrolment for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.
The course is offered as part of the Central Asia Initiative at Leiden University.
Students with disabilities
The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.