Established by Columbia University’s Inner Asia Curricular Development Workshop, this website provides materials for teaching and studying the Inner Asia region: the lands on the eastern fringe of the Eurasian land-bridge that lie mainly within western and northern China, with Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet at their core.
Established in 2015, the Inner Asia Curricular Development Workshop at Columbia develops materials for teaching and studying Inner Asia, the lands on the eastern fringe of the Eurasian land-bridge that lie mainly within western and northern China, with Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet at their core.
The Workshop members selected and studied readings and educational materials about important aspects of the region and then produced syllabi for courses on those topics. The findings of each workshop session and the final syllabi are made available to the public through this website. The purpose of the website is to make resources on the area available for teachers and students across the country and abroad.
Between ten and twenty participants formed the core membership of the Workshop. They included faculty from different disciplines with interest in the area, including experts in history, literature, political science, economics, anthropology and sociology, as well as area studies specialists with expertise in Inner Asia itself or the adjoining regions of the central Asian republics to the west and lowland China to the east.
The Workshop was part of a drive to emphasize the regional approach within area studies, encouraging geographic specialists to think in terms of larger contexts beyond political borders, and to examine flows of people, ideas, resources, cultures, topography and trade that connect peoples to their neighbors and beyond. In particular, it aimed, by combining experts in the area with those trained in broader disciplinary approaches, to find productive ways to integrate the study of local histories, societies, environments and economies with the study of larger global trends.
As the eastern end of the corridor linking Russia with China and Europe with East Asia, Inner Asia is increasingly emerging as of strategic importance. China has announced a focus on this area as part of what it calls the “New Silk Road” and since the turn of the millennium has developed, primarily though the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, important forms of coalition building, military alliance, and strategic interaction across this area. The region is also of strategic importance for resource extraction and the delivery of primary resources. But the parts of the Inner Asia region that lie within China’s own borders, covering 55% of China’s landmass, have long and ongoing histories of serious ethnic tensions that weaken Beijing’s efforts at state-building and maintaining legitimacy in its border areas.