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Water and the Environment in Central Eurasia: A Workshop in Honor of Julia Obertreis 
Jeff Sahadeo (Carleton University)
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Jeff Sahadeo (Carleton University)
Anna Mazanik (Max Weber Network Eastern Europe)
Tamari Qeburia (Ilia State University University of Göttingen)
Pre-Conference Workshop
Sociology & Social Issues
Start time:
6 June, 2024 at
Time zone: Asia/Almaty
Session slots:


The workshop will focus on the relations between humans and the environment in Central Eurasia in past and present. In an era of climate change and increased demand on natural resources, an understanding of the diverse environmental connections and historical and ongoing ecosystemic change in the region is critical. This workshop will undertake an interdisciplinary approach, building on knowledge from the environmental humanities and natural sciences. We gather in honor of Julia Obertreis, whose pioneering work on the history of water and water infrastructure in Central Asia offered new ways to see the region. Julia used water and environmental humanities as lenses to understand broader issues that touched on knowledge production, technological transformation, politics and colonialism alike. The workshop will bring together scholars working on the broader region of Central Eurasia, including Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asian states.

We will begin with two speakers, Mortiz Florin and Jeff Sahadeo, who will talk about Julia Obertries’ work and contributions to the field. The workshop will then proceed with a series of roundtables, that will combine short scholarly presentations with a discussion of pedagogical methods and ways to transmit research results to students and beyond academia.

The first roundtable will establish the scope of regional water issues: from rivers to seas, from aridity to floods, from energy to drinking water. Issues will include hydroelectricity, aridity, fish and other non-human life, water infrastructure (bridges, etc.), water and urbanization. As we engage different disciplines and issues, how can we make connections? Who are the major actors and what are the biggest issues and debates in the region?

The second roundtable will focus on the more-than-human and multispecies history of Central Eurasia. What new insights does this perspective bring to the understanding of the region’s past and present, for example, in the context of disease ecologies or agriculture? Which sources and methods can we use in reconstructing the changing role of various non-human actors, such as domestic animals, insects or microbes, and their entanglements with humans?

The third roundtable will focus on research dissemination, with an emphasis on teaching. How can we use the breadth of knowledge accumulated in the workshop, and the experiences of participants, to environmental issues in the classroom at all levels? This will include discussion of the use of online tools as well as organizations outside academia that we might approach for broader cooperation.