The anthropology of Central Asia provides socially situated, ethnographically grounded analyses that complicate grand narratives of post-Soviet transformations in this understudied and undertheorized region. Coalescing as a field with the sudden outsider access since the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, western anthropological research in Central Asia is only beginning to contribute to current conceptual debates in anthropology. This review surveys the English-language literature, focused on the ex-Soviet republics Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan, with comparative references to Xinjiang, China. Themes revolve around economic survival strategies amid upheaval, traditionalist revivals in nationalizing states, Soviet rule's peculiar productivity of culture and imaginaries, post-9/11 Islamic modalities, the nature of state power, and the importance of Cold War epistemologies in critiquing this literature. It considers fruitful future directions of research within a post–Cold War frame.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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