Professor John Schoeberlein gave a lecture on the Conceptual Challenges for the Study of Post-Soviet Islam at the IIS on 7 May 2009. Professor Schoeberlein is currently the Director for the Program on Central Asia and the Caucasus at Harvard University and has been studying and visiting Central Asia for over 20 years.
In his introductory remarks, Dr Najam Abbas, an IIS Research Fellow in the Central Asian Studies Unit, spoke of the desire to clarify the enormous information flow about Central Asian Islam in order to promote better understanding of Muslims in that region of the world. The conceptual challenges for the study of post-Soviet Islam are intrinsically linked to the study of Islam in Central Asia during the Soviet period. This was dominated by a scholarly discourse which saw Islam as a purely political actor, placed in opposition to the Soviet worldview. This conceptual framework was true both for Soviet and Western scholars, the former saw Islam as a “problem to be neutralised as a social and political mobilising force, if not eliminated altogether.” Western scholars during the Soviet era, however, believed that Islam was a “good political problem” as it was seen to challenge the Soviet state.
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