Foreign Policy Blogs

Professor William Wood and Some Culture

Yesterday, I was able to attend a lecture and Q & A by Professor William Wood from Point Loma Nazarene University hosted by the World Affairs Council of San Diego.  Wood is a Central Asian regional expert who has done much research throughout the region, including during the period just before the CA states gained their independence from the Soviet Union.  His talk was of a comprehensive nature, but featured some interesting and valuable insights:

– Wood quickly discussed how strong identity played a role for all the citizens of Central Asia.  For it is true that the Soviet Empire draw at times rather arbitrary state lines, separating tribes, religious sects, languages, and families.  These national demarcations are still having a tremendous impact today, as Wood described in an interesting antidote about two brothers, one considered himself more Persian and another more Turkish. Anther aspect of this issue brought up by Wood, was the important role played by Shia-dominated Iran in separating the 'stans from their Sunni brethren in the Middle East.

– Professor Wood lamented the staying power of the cotton industry in the region, arguing that the cash crop was using valuable water resources and detracting from other food-based agricultural products.  He described his own experience studying in the region during fall when everyone disappeared to pick cotton.  He also discussed child labor and during Soviet times, the use of dangerous pesticides, in the cotton fields.  I know there have been many groups who have tried to get the region's governments and business off cotton and human rights groups trying to stop child labor abuse, but things do not appear to be changing.

– Wood touched on geopolitics as well, going over the proposed NATO-Russian-CA state plans for a transportation route, much discussed on this site.  The sticking point seems to be the transporting of actual lethal military goods through Russian land and airspace, but progress seems to be occurring and there may be an agreement very soon.

Wood's presentation was a short, but very sweet overview of modern Central Asian political, economic, and social issues.

I’ll leave you with some cultural intrigues for the weekend

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Eurasianet has the scope on Central Asian artists and art-themed work hitting the mainstream, aka New York City.  Kazakh artists Erbossyn Meldibekov and Almagul Menlibayeva's work was featured at a special exhibition and Kyrgyz artists Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev exhibition titled 'the New Silk Road’ was on display at New York's Winkleman Gallery.

Speaking of the Silk Road, South Korea held a Cultural Festival focusing on the historic path last November.  The festival is part of an increasing amount of cultural exchange, sponsored by the CA and SK governments, between the two cultures.

Lastly, Journalist Kevin Jacobs took a journey across the modern Silk Road and wrote about his experiences for The Times.  He blends an interesting path between historic and modern Central Asian culture and social life.

(Photo: Silk Road Festival in South Korea)

 

Author

Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO

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