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Education Abroad Office

Society and Environment in Kazakhstan Past and Present

Area: Global Classroom
Location: Karagunda, Nur-Sultan, Almaty, Karkaraly, Abay
Country: Kazakhstan
Term: Maymester
Faculty and Staff: Magdalena Stawkowski

*Students must speak with Magdalena Stawkowski first before completing an application through the Education Abroad Office*

Course: ANTH 323

Dates: 05/11/2024 - 05/22/2024

Program Contact:

Program Description:

This Maymester program takes us to Kazakhstan, one of the most unique and accessible of the five so-called “Stans” of Central Asia. It is famous for the legendary Mongol tribes and Genghis Khan who once roamed the vast and open steppes on horseback. It is the origin of many of the world’s apples varieties that grow naturally in its mountain valleys. Less known is that Kazakhstan was once the second largest republic in the Soviet Union and was a vast laboratory for some of the biggest industrial, agricultural, and military modernization projects of the 20th century. The country hosts the famous Baikonur Cosmodrome, the oldest, largest, and one of the busiest rocket launch facilities in the world that sent the first human into space. Kazakhstan also hosts the infamous Polygon, the largest and now abandoned land-based nuclear test site in the world where hundreds of atomic bombs were tested. A diverse and extensive list of natural and mineral resources, like oil, coal, manganese, gold, uranium, copper, aluminum, tin, and many others made Kazakhstan an important mining venue during the Soviet period and these resources continue to form the backbone of its economy today. At the same time, the country faces severe environmental problems from its industrial and scientific past that have a profound effect on people’s lives. In this course we will ask: what are the lasting political, social, cultural, and environmental legacies of modernization projects that characterized much of the 20th century? How have people dealt with the consequences of damaged environments? How can we best reflect on the “aftermaths” of science and industry that characterized much of the region and the ways in which people cope with adversity?

This program is for intellectually adventurous students. As this is a study abroad course, the first objective is to immerse us in a new learning environment in a “hands on” manner. The desired educational experience is to learn about the Kazakhstani society and its environment in an intensive learning setting. The program is a combination of class lectures, discussions, group projects, and planned activities. Most of the time we will meet in a classroom setting at a local non-governmental organization in Karaganda city and you will be expected to complete out of class assignments “in the field” at locations pertinent to our topic of study. The program includes: 1) classroom lectures and participant observation at a local non-governmental organization; 2) field excursions to former labor camps, military sites, and mining enterprises where we will visit museums, as well as interview local residents about the history and present of industry to gain a deeper understanding of social, economic, and environmental impacts; 3) tour two of Kazakhstan’s most celebrated recreation areas and national parks; 4) live in a Kazakh village to learn, observe, and participate in the traditional stockbreeding culture that has returned to the area. This visit is all the more unique, as the village is home to many survivors of Soviet era nuclear testing; 5) one day tours of capital Nur-Sultan and Almaty, two of Kazakhstan’s most exclusive cosmopolitan centers and learn about the future of this unique country.

Application Deadline: March 1

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.