Are Altaic Studies a Political Science?
(58th Annual Meeting, 2015)
Since Altaic studies, or studies of Central Asia as they are perceived by some scholars, are frequently defined as the discipline that deals with the culture, history and languages of Central Asia, a simple answer to the question proposed in the title should be negative. If we look at Altaic (or, for this purpose, Central Asian studies), it becomes clear that while the subjects mentioned above are purportedly non-political in nature, yet only as long as the objectives of those entities financing these studies or the political dynamics of the region during the last centuries are willingly ignored. While the perspectives of Central Asia as a centre of geopolitical potential may have changed, the general notion as such remains unabated. The Great Game has contributed to the advancement of Central Asian studies as much as Germany’s endeavours to access China via air, and today the war in Afghanistan is equally promotional and detrimental for the field, be it for the motivation to finance research or for the difficulties to conduct field work.