General Description


The MA in Eurasian Studies Program is designed to be completed in two years. Students take a three-class course load during the fall and spring semesters of their first year, two classes plus thesis work in the Fall Semester of their second year, and one elective alongside the completion of their master’s thesis in their fourth semester. In the summer between their first and second year they undertake primary research for their thesis, which is structured within a credit-bearing module. Having no more than three classes per semester allows students to engage with topics in the depth and detail required of graduate study.

The MA in Eurasian Studies program is weighted at 120 ECTS credits (ten courses of eight ECTS and a master’s thesis of forty ECTS). The curriculum consists of five core courses (Introduction to Eurasia, General Methodology, Qualitative Research Methods, Disciplinary Methodology, Research and Fieldwork practicum) and five electives chosen from Anthropology, History, Literature, Philosophy, Political Science, Religious Studies or Sociology.

In the first semester of the first year, students are taught as a single cohort and required to take three core courses. In the second semester of the first year, they are assigned two internal supervisors for their thesis, and will begin to develop a topic in weekly individual meetings within the framework of the ‘Disciplinary Methodology’ course, which culminates in a feasibility study. This forms the basis of their summer fieldwork and research. Alongside this they choose two electives. In the first semester of the second year they are assigned an external member of their thesis committee, who is available for electronic consultation, and they have weekly meetings with their internal supervisors to discuss their research and draft chapters of the thesis. Alongside this they choose another two electives. In the second semester of their second year they complete the thesis, and choose one elective alongside it.

The thesis is the key element in the Eurasian MA degree, reflected in its weighting at one third of the credit load. It is an independent, original research project, based on fieldwork (participant observation, interviews, survey data) and work in libraries and archives across the Eurasian region, together with a deep grounding in theoretical and methodological approaches and the secondary literature of the relevant field. The length will vary from 20,000 words (for disciplines such as Sociology where many of the results will be in the form of numerical data) to 30,000 words (for more discursive disciplines such as History or Literature). Successful completion of the thesis will have given Eurasian MA students the skills to compose article-length work of publishable quality, with a clear path to future employment, or further academic study.


Core Courses

EAS 500Introduction to Eurasia

This course is an introduction to the advanced study of the Eurasian region. Students will develop the skills to understand and make use of the cutting edge of scholarship on Eurasia in a variety of disciplines. The course will assist students in acquiring a broad overview of the multidisciplinary field of Eurasian studies, and in identifying the areas within this field that they find most interesting to pursue in greater depth. The course is organized around a weekly discussion of one major contribution to the field. While each week involves a stand-alone work, the works are dedicated to a number of cross-cutting themes, and students are expected to participate in a discussion of the works that builds on earlier discussions in the course. The themes that unify much of this scholarship include: the impact of pre-Soviet and Soviet legacies, the conceptual frameworks that shape political systems, the formation of national states and boundaries, the transformation of political/social systems (tsarist to Soviet and Soviet to post-Soviet), the social construction of groups and their behaviour, including especially the role of language, the formation of values, and the role of the political and economic system in social life and its impact on relationships.

EAS 501General Methodology

The General Methodology course of the MA programme in Eurasian Studies is designed to introduce students to key methods and theories which are relevant across multiple disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences. It is a team-taught course, in which different Faculty members will offer their expertise in particular areas. The sessions in the first part of the semester will concentrate on the practical skills required to research, write and reference academic papers, while those in the second part of the semester will examine key theories and concepts (Post-Socialism, Epistemology, Transnational Approaches, Theories of the State, Nations and Nationalism, Environment and Society, Marxism, Orientalism & Postcolonialism) that are relevant to academic study across all disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Students will have the opportunity to pursue those topics that interest them most in greater depth through further reading, and producing written assignments.

EAS506Qualitative Research Methods

This course will introduce students to the basic qualitative techniques used to design and carry out research in different disciplines, beginning with identifying and refining a topic. It will include an introduction to interview techniques, data collection and coding, statistical methods, research ethics and archival techniques.

EAS 502Disciplinary Methodology

This course will cover major theories and methodologies within different disciplines, and will consist of guided readings and weekly individual tutorials. Students will be introduced to major authors and schools of thought (e.g. the Annales School in History, Evans-Pritchard & Levi-Strauss in Anthropology, Bourdieu in Sociology) and encouraged to draw upon and combine ideas from different subject fields in their own research. Students will be working closely with the two internal members of their thesis committee, who will advise on the readings most suitable for their topic. The course will result in a literature review and feasibility study in preparation for the thesis.

EAS505Summer Research and Fieldwork Practicum

The summer research practicum is compulsory for students on the MA program in Eurasian Studies. Students will spend a minimum of 200 hours over the summer engaged in primary research for their thesis topic. This may consist of archival or library research, on-site fieldwork, carrying out surveys or other research appropriate to their discipline. They will keep a diary of their research activities, recording their day-to-day schedule, together with notes on their research, and use these to compose an end of summer report which will explain their activities and their outcomes, and how they expect this research to feed into their thesis. The report will be assessed by the students’ thesis committee.


All students are required to complete a Master’s thesis, a major research project undertaken in consultation with two Faculty supervisors and an external advisor. The thesis must be at least 20,000 words in length and no more than 30,000, excluding endnotes, tables, appendices and bibliography. The topic of the thesis must be approved by the student’s Advisory Committee and be based on original research. Students will begin the reading and methodological training for their thesis working with their internal supervisors on EAS502. At the end of this they will submit a feasibility study which includes their plans for summer research (undertaken within the framework of EAS505). They will work on their thesis over the two semesters of their second year, with weekly meetings with at least one of their internal supervisors, and email consultations and feedback with the external member of the thesis committee. The thesis should be an original piece of research of publishable quality.


Sample Elective Courses

I. Anthropology and sociology

Kyrgyz Aqsaqals
Kyrgyz Aqsaqals, Bishkek, 2007

Anthropology of Religion and Secularism (John Schoeberlein)

For many people throughout the world, religion is naturally connected with virtually every aspect of society, while in modern societies, we see elaborate efforts to reserve areas of social and especially political life where religion should be limited. The anthropology of religion explores the diverse ways that religion forms a part of human experience and the social systems that organize our lives, while the anthropology of secularism examines the ways that religion interacts with the public sphere and competes or coexists with other systems of social value and order such as magic and science. This course examines the ways that anthropologists and other scholars of culture and society have explored the cultural experiences and social processes associated with religion and the other social systems in which religion is included or excluded. Case materials will be drawn primarily from Eurasia, broadly defined, while the course also aims to show how the experience of Eurasia — particularly, post-Communist Eurasia — can be better understood in a broad comparative perspective.

Post-Socialist Capitalism and Development (Alima Bissenova)

The main objective of this course is to examine ideological underpinnings and social implications of post-socialist economic transformations in the Post-Soviet Space, East-Central Europe and China. We will approach complex economic issues such as development policies, investment strategies, economic boom and bust cycles from an anthropological perspective by analyzing the norms and values that drive both institutional policies and people’s market behavior. More specific topics will include: liberalization/globalization, neo-liberal reforms, foreign investment, state-capital interaction, formal/informal sectors of economy, urban development, construction boom, capital accumulation and dispossession.

Social Problems and Issues in Eurasia (Sofiya An)

Throughout the course of the semester we will examine sociological theories of regional social problems. The first half of the course is devoted to understanding theories of global inequality in their many dimensions and how they are applied. In the second half of the course we will investigate different issues, such as Population growth, Migration, Environmental problems, and Education in Eurasia.

II. History, Literature, Religious Studies

Land and population in Russian Turkestan (ca. 1865-1915) (Beatrice Penati)

This class is specifically consecrated to the agricultural and environmental history of pre-revolutionary Russian Central Asia, with some incursions in neighbouring regions. It aims at pushing the students to look beyond cotton monoculture to embrace the full range of forms of interaction between men and nature in the region, during the decades of Russian colonial rule. Students will familiarise themselves with a set of typical research questions in agricultural and environmental history by discussing a choice of ‘classic’ and more recent works, ranging from Marc Bloch to Alan Mikhail. They will be encouraged to apply similar questions and methods to the study of human-nature interaction in Central Asia, on the basis of a variety of sources. We will use in particular colonial official documents, reports from scientific expeditions, and travel accounts: this will also serve as an introduction to the richness and challenges underpinned by these kinds of sources.
The emphasis of this class will be more on the socio-economic and environmental questions implicit in irrigated and rain-fed agriculture, livestock breeding, forestry, fishing, epizootics and epidemics, rather than on related bureaucratic practices. The latter will need to be taken into account, though, to understand document production and consumption.

Sart Fields
‘Sart Fields’, near Samarkand, from the Prokudin-Gorskii Collection (ca.1905)

Utopias in Russian and Soviet Literature (Gabriel McGuire & Zbigniew Wojnowski)

Stalin famously described writers as the ‘engineers of human souls’. In his vision, the task of Soviet literature was to help construct the New Soviet Person – free from bourgeois prejudices of the past and committed to a bright, communist future. Examining contemporary novels and poems alongside modern-day historical scholarship, this course traces the history of utopia in Russian and Soviet literature between the revolution of 1905 and the collapse of the USSR in 1991. It examines how Russian and Soviet writers constructed visions of ideal societies and thereby seeks to understand the changing roots, nature, and limits of revolutionary dreams in Tsarist Russia and the USSR. We will further reflect on the role that literature played in questioning narratives of progress, exploring dystopian science-fiction visions of the future along with satirical portrayals of the Soviet present and idealised accounts of the pre-industrial past. More broadly, the course will analyse the role of the creative intelligentsia under the Tsarist and Soviet regimes. Readings range from Mayakovsky’s futurist poetry to Rasputin’s village prose, and from Ostrovskii’s socialist realist novels to Bulgakov’s political satire.

Plan for the Palace of the Soviets, Moscow, 1931

The Russian Empire in Asia and its neighbours, 1552 – 1919 (Alexander Morrison)

This course is a detailed study of the international relations and diplomacy of the Russian empire in Asia from the early modern period to the October Revolution and Civil War. We will reflect on Russia’s place in Asia, and the various competing ideologies that have been used to justify it, from Christianity and the conventional European civilizing mission to mystical ideas of Russia’s spiritual affinity with ‘The East’. Beginning with the campaigns to conquer Kazan, Astrakhan and Siberia that first turned Muscovy into a multi-confessional empire, the course will cover Russian expansion in Siberia and Sino-Russian relations from Yermak’s campaigns in 1583 to the treaty of Kiakhta in 1722, Peter the Great and the Ottoman Empire, Russian America, 1700 – 1867, Catherine the Great, the Ottomans and the Crimean Khanate, Russia, Iran and Afghanistan, 1813 – 1841, Russia and the ‘Eastern Question’, 1815 – 1856, The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus, 1799 – 1864, Anglo-Russian relations in Central Asia and the ‘Great Game’, Russia in the Far East, 1891 – 1914, Russia and Iran, 1850 – 1914 and the revolutionary crisis and foreign intervention in Central Asia and the Caucasus, 1916 – 1919. The course will be based on the close reading of primary sources in English translation, or in Russian where possible. The aim is to understand the possibilities and limits of Russia claim to ‘Great Power’ status in Asia, and the political, ideological and cultural effects on both metropole and colony of this series of conquests and annexations.

‘Surrender’ – ‘Go to the Devil’ (Vasilii Vereshchagin’s depiction of the battle of Iqan in 1864)-

Buddhism in Central Asia

This course will explore the diffusion and evolution of Buddhism within Central Asia and along the Silk Road. We will study the relationship between Buddhism and politics within the Kushan and Sogdian empires as well as the kingdoms of Kucha and Khotan. Additionally, the relationship between Buddhism and commerce as well as the evolution of Buddhist art and iconography will be explored. Particular attention will be paid to the Sarvastivada, Dharmaguptaka, and Mulasarvastivada sects of Buddhism.

III. Political Science

Politics of Migration in Eurasia (Caress Schenk)

The Politics of Migration in Eurasia course introduces students to the comparative analysis of political institutions, ideas and practices of Migration in the former Soviet countries of Eurasia. We will assess the political legacies of the Soviet system, address the challenges of political reforms, and analyze the origins, functioning and impact of formal and informal political institutions. We will learn how to construct a comparative framework and build arguments for explaining the different political processes and outcomes post-Soviet countries have experienced.

Comparative Democratization in Eurasia (Charles Sullivan)

Democratization is one of the key areas of study in comparative politics. In the last 50 years, authoritarian regimes around the world have been replaced—sometimes in evolutionary fashion, sometimes practically overnight—with governments that are responsive to their citizens and committed to the rule of law. As evidence that democracy is “the only game in town,” today the majority of states are democratic at least in name. At the same time, many are considered “imperfect” or “compromised” democracies at best. In this course, we will raise central questions that motivate social scientists and policymakers the world over. How is an authoritarian regime different from a democracy? Why do some countries democratize while others do not? How can we make sense of the wide swath of countries that “are stuck” somewhere in between these two ideal types? Students will analyze, critique, and apply theories and concepts that political scientists have developed in response to these questions. In the process, they will hone their research and writing skills by gathering and presenting evidence to support an argument, writing, editing, and revising their written work.

The Politics of Arms in International Relations in Eurasia (Spencer Willardson)

This class examines arms in international relations from a number of perspectives and at different levels of analysis. The purpose of the course is to acquaint graduate (and advanced undergraduate) students with the literature, questions, and debates about the role that military equipment and technology plays in international relations. The course will be divided into four general sections: 1) theories of power and coercion in international relations, 2) states and the production of arms, 3) military sales and military aid, and 4) arms sales decision-making in the state.