Literature and Identity: Historical Models and New Configurations 1900-1940 
Christopher Baker (American University of Central Asia)
Diana Kudaibergenova (University of Cambridge)
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Space Institute Room 403
Friday 11 October, 14:00-15:45 (UTC+0)

Long Abstract

The papers in this panel will discuss artistic literature and literary debates from broader Central Eurasia during the early twentieth century, with a focus on how artistic literary production reflected, and in some cases helped produce, emerging social and political identities. As older affiliations with the wider Islamic world, regional prestige languages, and Eurasian empires bumped up against new formations such pan-Turkism, nationalisms, and Soviet socialism, the literary output of Central Eurasia registered these changes in generic, formal, and thematic shifts and innovations. At the same time, increasing literacy and newly widespread uses of vernacular languages in literary work allowed Central Eurasian writers to reckon with their "local" place within these broader movements. Because of this confluence of "local" and "global" developments, the artistic literature of early twentieth century Central Eurasia provides an especially rich set of examples and case studies in understanding how individuals, social and political groups, and burgeoning nations from the region understood their place in the world.

This panel will examine several specific works or sets of works, providing examples and analyses of how "local" Central Eurasian identities were formed during this period from a combination of traditional and new forces in the region. Papers will include an discussion of nationalist uses of Persian outside of the typical Iranian context; an analysis of a reformist text which envisions the region in literary and cultural dialogue with both pan-Turkic educational forces and pan-Persian artistic modes; an examination of features of the socialist realist novel that derive not from Russian literature but from Islamic reformist discourses; and an analysis of Uzbek women's poetry, foregrounding the problem of integrating marked categories (women, national minorities) into a universalizing public. Taken together, the papers will shed light on how artistic literature reflected some of the massive political changes the early twentieth century brought to Central Eurasia, as well as how literature could be used to further "modernizing" projects like political and social reform and the assertion of new, or newly important, identity positions.

Accepted papers: