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Central Asia: the forgotten heart of Islamic civilisation? MEMO in Conversation with Iskandar Ding

Is Persian the bridge language of ancient Muslim societies? And are Central Asian countries seeing a revival of this ancient heritage?

May 1, 2024 at 4:00 pm



When we think of the great cities of Islamic history, we tend to think of Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, Isfahan and Istanbul. But for much of history Samarkand, Herat, Kashgar and Bukhara, to name a few, were at the epicentre of Muslim history.

The modernisation of the region, Russian colonisation and later Soviet rule severed the historical connections between Central Asia to the rest of the world. However, since the 1990s, Central Asian countries increasingly celebrate and explore this heritage, but how much of the past survives and where is the region going? One way to think about these questions is through the prism of language and delving into the different languages spoken in Central Asia today can tell us a lot about this heritage and the direction societies are moving.

Anglo-American academics have used the term the Persianate to describe the historical cultures present in Central Asia today, a term they argue ties Sarajevo to Hyderabad in-which the Persian language is a lingua franca of Islamic civilisation. But how relevant is this to Central Asia?

Linguist Iskandar Ding joins MEMO Conversations today to deep dive and nerd out on this topic.

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