Russian Orientalism through Art Production & Education

Conference: 8-9 November 2014  


Hosted by Cambridge Central Asia Forum & Centre for Development Studies, Alison Richard Building, University of Cambridge, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DT

Conveners:  Aliya de Tiesenhausen, Inessa Kouteinikova, S.S. Saxena, Prajakti Kalra

Call for Papers: >From the beginning of the Tsarist Russian advance into the territory of present day Central Asia in the 1850s, Russian intellectuals and artists portrayed the Asian ‘other’ in particular ways. The representations by artists beginning from the latter half of the 19th century when the Khanates of Bukhara, Khiva and Kokand became part of the Russian Empire have persisted over time. The Turkestan Governor-General (1865-1920) and later, during its formative years, the Soviet government played a significant role in sustaining the orientalisation processes in Central Asian territories officially through the means of art instruction and institutions of art.

This conference aims to look at the beginnings of Orientalising Central Asians in the 1850s and evolution of this sentiment and particularly its use in the colonial agenda of the Russian Empire and later transformation during the Soviet Union in the making of the five Central Asian states in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The images of the Asian other have persisted not only in the region but have coloured the perception of modern day citizens of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in a much broader context.

In addressing the period of formation of Central Asian art production, this conference aims to broaden the parameters art and craft education in relation to economic and social processes in the region.

We invite authors to present their views on the ways of seeing different forms of Central Asian art and art production outside of a limited framework or purely aesthetic history of fine arts.

The conference will include keynote addresses and several interdisciplinary panels. We expect the publication of only selected papers (selected authors will be notified shortly after the conference). At this stage unfortunately we are unable to provide travel bursaries and participants are responsible for covering their own costs for travel and accommodation. Conference participants may apply for additional funding from their universities, international organisations or other sponsors. Cost for visa arrangements will also have to be covered by attendees, the organisers intend on providing invitation letters for visa purposes as soon as possible after the deadline for the submission for abstracts, however it is a responsibility of the attendee to arrange the visa on time.

Deadlines: The deadline for submitting abstracts, no longer than 500 words, is the 10th of September 2014. Please submit abstracts

The authors of accepted papers will be notified by email by the 8th of October 2014.

Those seeking visas are requested to clearly notify the organizers when submitting their papers so that the paperwork can be completed immediately in order to help obtain a visa in time.

The topics include, but are not limited to-

1. Russian hegemony and establishment of the Turkestan Government-General,

2. Classifications and Associations

Framing CA crafts

Russian colonial analysis of Central Asian crafts and economic obsession with cotton

Von Kauffman’s native policy and flexible approach

Master Craftsmen, Apprentices, Craft learning and Brigades

“High and Low” arts

3. Diffusing colonial order

Design and process of colonial education

Colonial mass education

Theoretical framework of colonial mass education

Training a service labor class in the Turkestan government

4. Central Asia’s traditional industry

Educating a new bureaucracy

A Russian alternative to madrassas

Women’s vocational schools

The class base of craft education

5. Originality and Colonial exploitation

New Nationalism

Russian definition of arts and Crafts in Central Asia

The formation of Patriotic motifs

6. The burden of cultural decolonisation

The populists

The nativists

The “in-between” groups


Additional information:


Where to stay in Cambridge:

Cambridge College’s Room offerings:

Regency House:

List of affordable guest houses:

B&B list in Cambridge:

How to get to Cambridge:

Trains from London Kings Cross and London Liverpool Street (student discounts available for Railcard 16-25 holders, group discounts also available):


Cambridge Map:

Please refer to for further information.

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