Professor Modjtaba Sadria presented a paper at the Second International Social Scientists Congress in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan which was held from the 22 – 24 October 2008. Entitled Social, Political, Economical Search in Central Asian Societies, the congress sought to generate a cooperative approach to studies of Central Asian societies. The Congress was attended by scholars from a variety of disciplines and geographical locations – Turkey, the former Soviet Union, American and Europe and Central Asia.
Sadria was invited to present the results of research on the impact of migration and immigration as a factor of social transformation in Central Asia. His paper, ‘From Grand Strategy to Life Politics – the Role of Migration in Central Asia’s Transformation’, was selected by a peer review selection process as one of the papers of the Congress.
In addition to presenting a paper, Sadria was invited to chair a session on democracy, modernity and identity, and to form part of the ten member team to conclude the work of the Congress.
“The Congress is important from two different perspectives,” Sadria explained. “One is the multidisciplinary approach that it seeks to provide to the study of Central Asian societies. The second is the inclusion of researchers from a range of different backgrounds in the Congress.”
“Among the discussion with colleagues and organisers, it was agreed that a more balanced number of scholars from different locations would improve the conference – especially that larger number of scholars from Central Asia are needed.”
In his paper, Sadria considers that historically, emigration and immigration to and from Central Asian societies has had a very important transformative impact on both political and socio-economical spheres. Within this broad context, Sadria focuses on the notion that the phenomenon of emigration is more significant today than it has ever been.
“The paper deals with emigration and immigration on the levels of economy, society and culture. From the perspective of economy, the paper deals with remittances by migrant labourers to Central Asian societies, which thereby form the primary or secondary source of international currency in these countries. From the perspective of society, it looks at the effects of large scale emigration of young people. In some cases up to one third of 19-35 year-old males from those societies have emigrated.”
On a cultural level, the paper explores issues surrounding the fact that the primary choice of emigration destination is determined by the migrant’s ability to use the Russian language in the destination country. Therefore, the majority of Tajik and Kyrgyz workers emigrate to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan or Russia.
By exploring immigration and emigration in the context of Central Asian societies, the paper is an attempt to address specific issues which need to be considered by policy-making processes. One recommendation that emerged from discussions was the need for a coordinated healthcare system for migrant workers. Second was the notion of a more transparent and functional system of transferring money that protects workers from the many risks posed by the informal system commonly used today.
Sadria noted that the International Social Scientists Congress, in continuing its work in looking at Central Asian societies, could help to clarify some of the issues raised. The Congress facilitates significant contributions of social sciences to the identification of the issues originating from the internal and external dynamics of Central Asian societies, requiring an in-depth knowledge of the history of these societies and their cultures.
First held in Izmit, Turkey in 2006, the Congress is made up of scholars in fields as diverse as international relations, history, sociology, economics, management, public administration and labour, among others. By uniting scholars of Central Asia under a common forum, the Congress seeks to assess and offer solutions to the problems that these societies encounter.
Coordinator, Planning & Academic Development
Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations