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Theorizing Central Eurasia: The Problem of Nationalism
CEUS-R 493/693
Gardner Bovingdon

Though some people predicted a generation ago that nationalism would disappear, it has clearly remained an important political force throughout the world.  Nationalism unquestionably gained strength in Central Eurasia after the breakup of the Soviet Union, yet it had emerged as an ideology and a political force in the region long before the 1990s.  In order to understand how and why, this course will introduce students to key works on the origins and significance of nationalism. We will consider a number of fundamental questions.  How are nations and nationalism related? Are nations imagined and invented, as critics claim, or ancient and enduring, as nationalists assert?  Are nationalism, communism, and religiosity necessarily in tension?  Are indigenous nationalisms more authentic than “official nationalisms”?  Was (and is) nationalism in Central Eurasia merely a “derivative discourse,” imported from elsewhere?

Course Requirements: Over the course of the term students will write 2-page position papers and submit them electronically prior to the beginning of class; undergraduates will submit four position papers, graduate students six. The position papers are not summaries of the week’s readings, but reactions to them, posing questions, pondering implications, or comparing them to other readings.  See attached sheet, “guidelines for response papers,” for pointers.  Students will also write a final research paper.  For undergraduates the paper should be 10-15 pages, and for graduate students roughly 20 pages. The topic of the final research paper should be arranged with the instructor.  The final grade will combine participation (33%), the position papers (33%), and the research paper (33%).

Required texts: