This collection of multi-disciplinary essays offers a fresh, perspective on Central Asian art and culture as it gains increased attention on both the local and international stage. Influenced by the golden ages of its history – from the ancient Scythians, through the glory of the Persians and Turks, and shaped by the Russian and later Soviet imperial powers – the region is revealed as exotic, dramatic, and universally topical. Contributions come from scholars and participants in the Central Asian cultural scene who specialise in different, often isolated, spheres. Their unifying theme is identity and its formation, including national, ethnic, cultural, religious and gender identities.
Art and culture are shown to have active social roles – representing, analysing, questioning and supporting social upheavals and change. Culture is seen as an intrinsic part of society; while being affected by the specific historical context, it does at times affect it in return. From major socio-economic and political shifts, to smaller yet not less potent personal and individual identities, this collection demonstrates we are once again experiencing a time in which culture plays a crucial role in opening minds and facilitating change.
The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of Central Asian Survey.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: art and culture – actors or representatives?
Aliya de Tiesenhausen
2. Nation, religion and social heat: heritaging Uyghur mäshräp in Kazakhstan
Rachel Harris and Ablet Kamalov
3. The art of the Sixtiers in Soviet Kazakhstan, or how to make a portrait from a skull
4. Soviet architecture, Kazakh nationalist sentiments and the making of Soviet Kazakhstan, 1925–33: the cases of Kyzylorda and the House of Government of the Kazakh ASSR in Almaty
5. From Sufism to communism: incarnations of the Uyghur song ‘Imam Hüsäynim’
6. Contesting convention: agency in Dushanbe’s contemporary art scene
7. Queer identity in the contemporary art of Kazakhstan
Aliya de Tiesenhausen is an independent scholar of twentieth- and twenty-first century Central Asian art. She co-curated Focus Kazakhstan: Post-Nomadic Mind, London, 2018 – the first major exhibition of modern and contemporary art from the country in the UK. She is the author of Central Asia in Art: From Soviet Orientalism to the New Republics, 2016.