Congratulations to Professor Saidrahmon Sulaymoni of Tajik National University, who has been awarded a Sheikh Hamad Award for Translation and International Understanding!
Professor Sulaymoni built his academic career in Arabic language at Tajik National University (TNU), working there from 1972 to 1985. He then worked at the Soviet/Tajik Academy of Sciences but in 2005, returned to TNU to lead the Arabic Language department.
In 2012 he was elected to the Egypt based Academy of Arabic Language, the first academic from Central Asia to receive this honour.
One of Professor Sulaymoni’s key achievements was the publication of an Arabic-Tajik dictionary, which he worked on for over 20 years! He has also found time to publish over 100 articles and a five volume collection of works by Abuali ibn Sino (probably the most famous Tajik* academic ever; commonly known in the English-speaking world as Avicenna).
According to Trend News Agency, the Hamad Awards seek to
honor translators and acknowledge their role in strengthening the bonds of friendship and cooperation amongst peoples and nations of the world. It hopes to reward merit and excellence, encourage creativity, uphold the highest moral and ethical standards, and spread the values of diversity, pluralism and openness. The Award also aspires to inculcate a culture of knowledge and dialogue, promote Arab and Islamic culture, develop international understanding, and encourage mature cross-cultural interaction between Arabic and other world languages through the medium of translation.
A photo of Professor Sulaymoni collecting his award in December 2018 was shared by Asia Plus.
Congratulations again to Professor Sulaymoni! It is exciting to see researchers in Tajikistan being recognized on an international stage.
This news also allows me to end the 2018 blogging year on a lovely positive note. I’ll be back in January, but in the meantime, many thanks to all my readers and followers.
In 2018, you found the blog from over 110 countries! My top readers for 2018 based on site visits are in the US, UK, Canada, Kazakhstan and India – but I am delighted that one reader each from locations as diverse as Cambodia and the Cayman Islands also found their way here! Have a very happy (Orthodox) Christmas to those who celebrate, and all best wishes for a successful, healthy and cat-meme-filled 2019!
*For fact lovers: Ibn Sino was born near Bukhara and lived his life in the territory that is now Uzbekistan, but it is generally accepted that he was Tajik. Here’s a Canadian perspective from the Global Affairs Canada department’s Country Insights section:
“In the finest Soviet tradition, dead poets and writers are revered. Tajikistan does have an extraordinarily rich cultural legacy of poetry and music, and just about every Tajik can recite some lines by poets such as Rudaki or Rumi, among others. Avicenna, the great Tajik philosopher-scientist, is to the East what Aristotle is to the West.”
Call for proposals: Beyond Competition? The Future Geopolitics of Knowledge (Panel to be held at ECPR 2019)
Below is a call for paper proposals to join a panel I am co-organizing that has been selected for inclusion at the 2019 General Conference of the European Consortium of Political Researchers. Please share this call with your contacts and consider sending us your abstract by January 10th! A pdf version of the proposal is available to download: CfP Geopolitics of Knowledge – ECPR 2019_forcirculation.
Call for proposals to a panel:
Beyond Competition? The Future Geopolitics of Knowledge
(Part of the ECPR Section Knowledge Politics and Policies)
The geopolitics of knowledge is commonly seen through the lens of global competition (e.g. Marginson, 2010; Rust & Kim, 2012; Hazelkorn, 2017). In this frame, higher education institutions and national/global governance actors compete for prestige both within and between nations, aiming to climb up the global rankings, recruit the best students and scholars and publish in top journals. The rules of the competition have to date been set by the institutions and actors in the North American-European axis and have created ‘universalized, delocalized and depoliticized’ (Shahjahan and Morgan, 2016, 93) spaces into which assimilation may be sought.
Nevertheless, recent global, regional and national developments are challenging the established rules of the game, doing so both by adapting global trends to different locations – emphasizing new places – and by seeking to create new knowledge or employ alternative knowledge traditions – suggesting new power relations.
This panel provides a platform for new thinking and discussion around the shifting dimensions of place and power in the future geopolitics of knowledge. We welcome papers that examine the role of emerging ‘centres’, regions and places of knowledge production, investigate the possibilities for regional associations and organizations to reshape the world academic order, analyse the impact of contemporary political transformations on international knowledge relations, and explore the scope for new or non-conventional theories and methods on researching the geopolitics of knowledge that take us beyond the usual competition lens.
Hazelkorn, E. (Ed.). (2017). Global rankings and the geopolitics of higher education: understanding the influence and impact of rankings on higher education, policy and society. London; New York, NY: Routledge
Marginson, S. (2010). Global Comparisons and the University Knowledge Economy. In L. M. Portnoi, V. D. Rust, & S. S. Bagley (Eds.), Higher education, policy, and the global competition phenomenon (pp. 29–41). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Rust, V. D., & Kim, S. (2012). The global competition in higher education. World Studies in education, 13(1), 5-20.
Shahjahan, R. A., & Morgan, C. (2016). Global competition, coloniality, and the geopolitics of knowledge in higher education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 37(1), 92–109.
Panel Chair and Discussants
Chair: Dr Miguel Antonio Lim, University of Manchester, UK
How to apply
We will preliminarily select four papers for inclusion in this panel.
Email a Word document to the two panel Discussants – firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com – by midnight Eastern Standard Time on Thursday January 10, 2019 with the following information:
Title of your paper:
Abstract (maximum 500 words):
Keywords (3-8) indicating the subject, theme and scope of the paper:
Presenter’s email address:
If you have a co-author(s), please also include their name(s), email address(es) and institution(s).
Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted.
Section abstract for the Special Interest Group Knowledge Politics and Policies
Knowledge, understood to be the foundation on which societies coalesce and economies thrive, has become central to contemporary politics and policymaking across governance levels. This section is interested in theoretical, empirical, and comparative contributions that investigate the role of politics and policy in the multi-level, multi-issue, and multi-actor governance of knowledge. In focusing on role, we refer to effects that ideas (including political ideologies), actors (both individual and organisational, including political parties and transnational entities), policy instruments, and institutions have on the governance, creation, dissemination, and transfer of knowledge. Panels will be oriented around these roles, key empirical questions, theories or methodologies. The Section continues the work on knowledge policy domains from the past 7 ECPR conferences (previously under the titles ‘Politics of Higher Education, Research and Innovation’ and ‘Europe of Knowledge’). It continues to welcome scholars, globally and interdisciplinarily, from all theoretical and methodological approaches.
Хотите знать по больше о моем исследовании на русском языке? Читайте дальше! Вышло на свет русский перевод стати о нашем с руководителем проекте о глобалной конкуренции за международных студентов. Ну вот, статья на русском.
This blog post is letting Russian language readers know about a new Russian translation of an article my supervisor wrote about our project on the global competition for international students. Don’t read Russian? No problem: here’s the article in English!
И для тех, которые умеют читать на обеих languages, let me know ваши мнения about both versions!
The original article that this more recent version draws from is published as The great brain race: Public policy and international student recruitment in Australia, Canada, England and the USA. (In English only unless someone would like to volunteer to translate it…)
I wrote this review some time ago (at the point this book first came out in 2016), but for various reasons it has not yet been published. To avoid any further delay, I decided to publish it here include it on my blog and hope that it encourages you to purchase a copy of the book (available for purchase from the publisher and the usual array of other booksellers) or see whether your local library has one for you to borrow.
Review of The disobedient wife by Annika Milisic-Stanley
Published by Cinnamon Press, 2016
What an oppressive and constrained world the two main characters, Harriet and Nargis, inhabit in this book. Harriet is a young, bored British expat wife, struggling to make sense of her new surroundings in Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan. Nargis is a young, harried Tajik woman, struggling to make ends meet to care for her family and keep her repugnant and unwanted second husband away.
The disobedient wife is billed as the first English language book to be set in contemporary Tajikistan, the poorest former republic of the Soviet Union, located in Central Asia and bordered by Afghanistan and China. It tells the story of these two women as they grapple with the fundamental problem of finding their place in society and in the world. Their lives intertwine when Nargis comes to work part-time for Harriet and both share the story-telling, although we primarily hear Harriet’s perspective through her journal entries as well as narrative.
I found the opening chapters somewhat stark, painting a truly depressing picture of living conditions in the Tajik capital and creating a strong sense of “them” (the Tajiks) and “us” (the expats) that in some respects was reminiscent of a bygone European colonial era. Harriet’s American acquaintance Patty plays the role of superior foreigner, unable to comprehend that the world looks and feels different from her native Texas and unwilling to make any effort to get under the skin of her Tajik surroundings.
Harriet’s discomfort with this artificial delineation of worlds grows as the story progresses but she never quite manages to see Nargis as an equal. For her part, Nargis doesn’t seem to express a desire to have Harriet as a friend. Both women are more occupied by the men in their lives: Harriet with cosmopolitan workaholic husband Henri, whose increasingly frequent and sometimes unexplained absences only serve to heighten her sense of isolation; Nargis with the memory of her beloved late first husband as well as the legacy left by second husband Poulod, whom she has controversially walked out on, despite being married off to him against her will and having to deal with his abusive behaviour.
As the novel progresses, what had seemed like an insurmountable cultural divide between Tajikistan and the “West” begins to soften; the claustrophobic atmosphere beginning to lighten. The depictions both of people and surroundings become more balanced and sympathetic, and it was at this stage that I found myself gripped, immersed in the pages as they sped by. Harriet slowly becomes more self-aware, and despite the odds, Nargis is able to assert more control over her future.
I won’t give away the eventual plotline but I was relieved – if slightly surprised – by the bittersweet ending. I had come to care about both women in a way that surprised me because of the somewhat unpromising start, and was very tense as I read through the last few chapters where their destinies unfold. Both were deserving of a fresh start, but given the circumstances of Harriet’s closeted expat life and the societal expectations weighing on Nargis, I wasn’t at all sure whether or how they would succeed.
As someone who knows Tajikistan well, it was a great pleasure to experience a strong sense of place emanating from the novel, and I could easily visualise the scenes author Annika Milisic-Stanley creates. Some hints as to the country’s potential are offered through, for example, attractive portrayals of the rugged beauty of the surrounding countryside and the images of Harriet’s garden on a summer’s evening, but I did wonder whether anyone unfamiliar with Tajikistan would ever seriously contemplate a visit after reading this book. It does all seem so bleak.
I was slightly unconvinced by some of the characters, who seemed to lack some of the “greyness” in their behaviour that make us the inconsistent and irrational humans we all are. As noted above, the American Patty was practically grotesque in her hatred of her life in Tajikistan and her attitude towards the “natives”. Poulod is unequivocally the “bad guy” with his black leather jacket and penchant for violence. At the other extreme, taxi driver Zavon, Nargis’ old school friend, is noble and sympathetic, ready to help out with a moment’s notice and never with any other motive than kindness. Overall, however, this does not detract the reader from the bigger picture Milisic-Stanley presents.
Whilst the location of The disobedient wife will be unfamiliar and even alien to many fiction lovers, the overarching theme of female redemption traverses the setting and allows the reader to readily engage with the novel. Told through the eyes of two ostensibly quite different women, their lives separated by the accident of where they were born, it is in fact the similarities that enable Harriet and Nargis to alter their trajectories that makes The disobedient wife so compelling.
A rare story from Turkmenistan [ru] popped up in my inbox recently. Authored by the Russian language website turkmenistan.ru, it describes how a group of university leaders from the country recently visited Romania to discuss expanding their institutional partnerships.
The short article lists a number of agreements being signed between universities in the two countries. From the Turkmen side, the institutions included in these memoranda are the Turkmenistan State Medical University, the Turkmen State Institute of Economics and Management, the Turkmen Agricultural University and the Turkmen State Institute of Architecture and Construction.
The signing of bilateral partnerships between universities in different countries is commonplace in global higher education, so the fact of the agreements isn’t in itself noteworthy.
However, with so little coverage available about higher education in Turkmenistan to those outside the country (and possibly also to those inside the country), this short story nevertheless offers insights into two areas of interest for Central Asia/higher education followers:
- International cooperation – Turkmenistan has chosen to remain notoriously isolated since obtaining independence, although its extensive oil and gas reserves attract significant activity by international firms. Despite occasional incursions onto the global stage, such as hosting the 2017 Asian Games at terrific expense, for the most part, Turkmenistan chooses to organize its own affairs. Higher education largely continues to follow the model inherited from the Soviet period, although efforts are underway to ‘globalize’ some universities in the country*. It is in this light that we should view the recent overseas trip made by a handful of university leaders: a small but perceptible shift towards allowing outside influences into the domestic higher education system. This framing then opens up other questions around what is motivating this growth in international cooperation, and what the intended purposes of institutional agreements are (the article does not give details on the agreements that were signed last month).
- Choice of partner – it’s impossible to draw conclusions from the limited information in the article, but I would speculate that the choice to partner with universities in Romania was deliberate. Romania and Turkmenistan share aspects of the socialist/communist higher education legacy but unlike Turkmenistan, Romania is a member of the European Union and has sought to rapidly internationalize higher education since joining the EU in 2007 (for more, download this free book on higher education reforms in Romania). For Turkmenistan’s universities, this offers not only a mutually understandable starting point, but a foothold into the European higher education area. There are a range of EU projects connecting Turkmenistan to Europe, and education is one of the EU’s priority areas. So it makes sense to seek out a ‘friendly’ partner who might also help Turkmenistan as and when it makes deeper incursions into the European higher education space.
*If you cannot access this article but would like to read it, please contact me. Where possible, I link to open access materials.
New publication: Review of ’25 Years of Transformations of Higher Education Systems in Post-Soviet Countries: Reform and Continuity’
I have a new book review out.
Sometimes, a book comes along just at the right time. The recent publication of 25 Years of Transformations of Higher Education Systems in Post-Soviet Countries: Reform and Continuity was that book in 2018 for me.
The book is the main end product of an exhaustive and huge-scale project led by the Higher School of Economics in Russia over the course of several years, and as I say in my review, the book is truly an impressive achievement.
Each of the 15 former republics of the Soviet Union gets a chapter dedicated to developments in higher education since 1991. Alongside these empirical chapters, there are two conceptual chapters laying out the overall framework of the book and setting the post-1991 shifts into the historical context of the Soviet Union. This was indeed a formative period for higher education, even in the republics that had much older histories of higher education and a number of pre-existing universities.
Of course it’s a tough ask to summarize the main points of a >400 page book in 1,500 words but my review is an attempt to do just that. I’m pleased to say that the publisher has made a number of copies of the review available free of charge; to download my review, click here.
And then, I hope, the review will whet your appetite to delve into the whole book, which can be downloaded totally free from the publisher’s website (or bought in hard copy for 30 Euros).
Fast, reliable and free internet access is widespread across many university and college campuses these days. In fact, access to the world wide web, often delivered wirelessly by wi-fi, is so much of an everyday expectation that those working on campus tend to take it for granted, noticing only on those rare occasions when the internet goes down for a few hours.
Not so in Tajikistan, where Asia-Plus reported recently on the ongoing challenges for students and faculty in obtaining access to the internet [ru] on the country’s campuses.
Even the country’s leading university, Tajik National University, has not yet been able to roll out free wi-fi across all of its departments, and that’s with additional funding from China (see also my previous post on China’s generous financing of infrastructure in Tajikistan).
And whilst there seems to be general agreement that decent internet access can support distance learning and provide greater access to learning resources and electronic libraries, the jury appears to be out on whether Tajikistani students should be trusted to make sensible use of free wi-fi – were such a facility to be available.
There appears to be some scepticism that greater access to the internet might lend itself to non-learning outcomes (basically because students would be stuck on social media), leading the Vice Dean of the Faculty of Journalism at Tajik National University to suggest that the internet “should be controlled”.
(That the government regularly closes down websites such as Facebook and YouTube at the first hint of a scandal or unrest goes unsurprisingly unmentioned in the article – and neither does the article note the many workarounds that Tajikistanis – students and otherwise – employ to get around such restrictions.)
But let’s take a step back before weighing in on whether and how students’ access to the internet should be monitored. The bigger picture is that students, faculty and staff in Tajikistan are currently living with limitations on the information they can access and the possibilities that the web can offer to enhance their teaching and learning practices.
Beyond free internet, there’s also the question of electronic journals and books that sit behind expensive paywalls. There are so many of these that the cost of subscribing is generally prohibitive to all bar the richest institutions.
As one student notes in the article, the introduction of web-based learning techniques – even in face-to-face lessons – could significantly improve the student experience. This could be asking students to do online research or using web-based polls/quizzes in large classes. Right now, the student reported, classes are “sometimes so boring that students fall asleep”.
Mobile phone use in Tajikistan is huge: on average, there is just over one phone for each and every citizen in the country. This suggests huge potential not just for higher education but for government and a wide range public service providers to develop creative ways to use that high level of mobile phone penetration to support learning and service delivery.
Nevertheless, with access to the internet is limited to around 20% of the overall population, there remain significant challenges to rolling out web-based technologies that could also be used in higher education.
Until internet access becomes more reliable and widely available in Tajikistan, those of us who have the luxury of being able to access academic sources and online teaching/learning resources at the click of a mouse might do well to think about ways we can redistribute those resources to promote broad, open access to the world’s vast repository of knowledge.