About the Central Asia Initiative

Central Asia Initiative

The purpose of the initiative is to establish Central Asian Studies at Leiden University. Central Asia is a region with fluid borders stretching into present-day Afghanistan, Russia, China, Mongolia, Iran and the Caucasus; a premodern highway of global interaction and today increasingly important as a centre stage of geopolitical interests. At present, Central Asia is marginally represented within the Faculty of Humanities (Area Studies, History, Linguistics) and the Faculty of Social Sciences (Political Sciences). Although individual researchers work on Central Asia, the region as a whole is largely absent from BA and MA teaching. Furthermore, only few researchers have structural academic embedding within the Leiden institutes despite the fact that Leiden offers a unique environment for Central Asian research and education since major languages and disciplines relevant to Central Asia are being taught here. Within the Leiden Institute for Area Studies, the study of Central Asia is important as it embodies a now ‘missing link’ between Asian Studies and Middle Eastern Studies in both a historical and a contemporary perspective.

Throughout two years (Feb 2015-Dec 2018), the project will create a platform for the study of Central Asia in its broadest sense, by uniting and consolidating existing expertise and initiating new international collaboration resulting in joint applications for research funding. Key issues are cultural space, identity formation, geopolitics and heritage. As part of the project a coordinating post-doc position was created, new course modules on Central Asia will be developed, and a series of outreach events will be organized (guest lectures, books discussions, conferences).

Project duration: 1 February 2015 - 31 December 2018

For current initiatives and events, please view the new Central Asia website


The main project grant holder is Dr.Gabrielle van den Berg

Dr. Van den Berg’s research interests include:

  • The literary history of Central Asia, in particular contemporary Tajik literature and on oral poetry and prose in Tajikistan, both in Persian and in the eastern Iranian Pamir languages.
  • The cultural heritage and history of the Ismailis of Tajik Badakhshan.
  • The Pamir languages, in particular Shughni-Rushani.

The post-doc coordinator is Dr. Elena Paskaleva 

Dr. Paskaleva's research interests include:

  • Timurid architecture.
  • Material culture of Central Asia.
  • Critical heritage studies.

Asian Modernities and Traditions

The University’s Executive Board (College van Bestuur) has decided to continue the Leiden University profile area Asian Modernities and Traditions  (AMT) for another four years 2015-2018. AMT2 commits itself to achieve by 2018 demonstrable results in enhancing the visibility of Asian research both within and outside the academic world, strengthened cooperation between Leiden faculties and institutes in terms of research, impact (valorisation) and teaching, the attraction of new grants or gifts for Asia research, impact activities and teaching, and the development of new courses in Asia studies, especially at the postgraduate (MA and PhD) level.

The total funding for 2015-2018 will be €1 million. In addition to some smaller funding programmes, the bulk (up to 850k) of AMT2 funding will be allocated competitively to teams of 2-5 Asia researchers in Leiden, who will be given a budget of €100-150k to develop a field of Asia research and teaching in the course of a 2-3 year period.

AMT key criteria in selecting large grant proposals are:
1) develops a field or approach to an aspect of Asian studies that broadens or extends currently existing expertise, research and teaching in Leiden;
2) involves and develops long-term cooperation between two or more institutes or faculties in Leiden;
3) increases the visibility and impact of Asian studies in Leiden.

Based on the applications received for the first round of funding (14 November 2015) , there projects were granted. The Central Asia project was one of them.

Last Modified: 04-10-2016