Summer School “The Land of Seven Rivers: Social Change in South-Eastern Kazakstan”

Taldyqorgan, 8.-30. June 2020

South-eastern Kazakstan, the Land of Seven Rivers or Zheti-Suw in Kazak, is a region of stunning landscape with alpine mountain ranges, wide open steppes, lakes and forests. Its fertile soils have been utilised for centuries by nomadic pastoralists and sedentary agriculturalists alike. But the region of Zheti-Suw was also for long a major spot along trans-continental trade routes, such as the famous Silk Road. This has all contributed to a very heterogeneous population and multi-cultural character in the region.

Today, Zheti-Suw is equivalent to the south-eastern province of Kazakstan around the former capital of Almaty and the regional centre of Taldyqorgan up to the Chinese border with its new free trade zones and massive infrastructural investments. As other parts of the country, people have seen dramatic changes in their livelihood since the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent establishment of an independent state, the Republic of Kazakstan, in 1991. The years since have seen a series of economic booms and crises that also deeply affected social relations.

The summer school will introduce students to the region and enable them to conduct research on the social changes going on. Local and international scholars will provide inputs on contemporary developments as well as on methodological approaches how to study them. Parallel to that an introductory Kazak language course will enable students to communicate in the field and conduct their individual fieldwork. During the spring term 2020 students will prepare for the summer school and develop their individual research ideas. Two joint meetings will be scheduled for that purpose. A first info meeting will take place at the beginning of the spring semester.

During the first two weeks the mornings will be devoted to language while the afternoons offer lecturers and discussions on regional topics and training in methodology. In the remaining ten days, students will live with local families and conduct their individual projects. Research will be done in teams of local and international students under the guidance of experienced scholars.

Learning outcome:

  • Students will learn a region unfamiliar to them by being introduced to its language, culture and social fabric
  • Students will develop their methodological skills and conduct a small research project based on their own interests and ideas
  • Students experience being in the field with all the professional and personal skills this demands.

Requirements for participation:

  • Letter of intention
  • Completed first-year course in anthropology or a related discipline
  • Regional Module Central Asia or basic knowledge on the region (a script for preparation will be provided for those who did not attend the seminar in HS 2019)

The Summer School is open for BA and MA students. Upon successful completion of the summer school and the language course students will receive 6 ECTS for each.

If you are interested in joining, please contact Prof. Dr. Peter Finke: peter.finke@uzh.ch