History

The Organization for the Advancement of Studies of Inner Eurasian Societies (OASIES) at Columbia University is a community of graduate students and scholars from varied disciplines and area studies perspectives. Our goal is to foster dialogue and partnership across the academic spaces bounded by the East Asian, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Russian area studies paradigms as we investigate Inner Eurasia.

Since the disbandment of the Center for the Study of Central Asia (CSCA) at Columbia University in 1996, there has been little institutional support for students interested in studying the vast Inner Eurasian space between East Asia, Russia, the Middle East, and South Asia. Up until the disappearance of CSCA, Columbia was widely regarded as a university dedicated to the study of Inner Eurasia. We would like to help restore Columbia to preeminence in this field by drawing on support from the four major area studies institutions whose scholarship contain and inform, but are not fundamental to, the study of Inner Eurasia. Clearly, such an endeavor would require taking stock of what has come before and assessing the lacunae that may have developed as a result of the area-studies paradigm.

As 2008 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the National Defense Education Act of 1958, we would like to take this opportunity to reestablish a center to support the study of Inner Eurasia: the Organization for the Advancement of Studies of Inner Eurasian Societies (OASIES). The first goal of OASIES is to begin a conversation on the state of area studies and the ways in which it has shaped academia over the past fifty years. We are interested in exploring what lacunae exist and the ways in which to address them. To this end, we will hold an ongoing series of scholar panel discussions on the state of area studies across the Eurasian space. These faculty panel discussions will invite senior faculty, both from Columbia and from other institutions, to speak on the genealogy of area studies around the Inner Eurasian space as well as how its paradigm has impacted their work.

More specifically, we aspire to use our organization as a nexus for strengthening the existing linkages between the Weatherhead East Asian, Harriman, Middle East, and Southern Asian Institutes at Columbia University, all of which have important connections to the study of Inner Eurasia. Starting from this strategic position, we will assist in the dissemination of information regarding academic events that pertain to two or more of the aforementioned institutes. We will support in organizing regular lectures, brown bag discussions, film screenings that transcend the various area studies approaches.

Finally we attempt to construct and support a community of student-scholars whose work transcends or does not fit neatly within the boundaries of area-studies institutes. Toward this end we serve as a Web-centered repository for resources and assist in coordinating student interests with such resources. We will hold periodic graduate student conferences which will involve presentations of papers on topics relevant either to the study of Inner Eurasia or topics that transcend or are not readily accommodated within the current area-studies paradigm. The first of these conferences was held on April 13, 2008.