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Interview with Dr. Marianne Kamp


The Central Eurasian Studies department at Indiana University is renowned worldwide for its assemblage of talented scholars and experts in the field.  This year, the department has added another top-notch scholar to its roster. Dr. Marianne Kamp, associate professor of Central Eurasian studies, brings with her over 25 years of research in the fields of women, gender, and social change in Central Asian states both before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  The IAUNRC spoke with her about her work in Uzbekistan, her research interests, and her planned course offerings.

When asked what piqued Dr. Kamp’s interest in Central Asia, she can’t help but laugh. “It was about as far from Indiana as you could possibly get,” she said. Dr. Kamp grew up in Evansville, Indiana - a moderately-sized city located approximately 120 miles southeast of Bloomington.  She remembers being interested in the Soviet Union even during her youth.  “I was a child of the Cold War, and I was always fascinated by it for some reason,” she said. Dr. Kamp knew before she graduated high school that she would be studying Russian Language and Literature. It was during her freshman year at Dartmouth College that she was introduced to the Central Asian region.  “I don’t remember which class I was in or even what the lecture was, but something that was said caught my attention,” she said. It was that moment, Dr. Kamp said, that she keeps in mind when she’s teaching.  “I always remember that it was from one lecture in a general, freshman year class that triggered my interest,” she said.  “It could be one new thing that you, as a professor, introduce that triggers your students’ interest and draws them toward a particular line of study.”

Dr. Kamp said she became interested specifically in Uzbekistan as a matter of convenience.  At the time when she was hoping to learn a Central Asian language to use in her research, there were not many options.  She had already been studying Turkish and Persian, which were offered in her doctoral program in NELC at the University of Chicago. Fortunately, she learned that Indiana University was offering introductory Uzbek during its annual Summer Language Workshop.  Dr. Kamp jumped at the opportunity. She continued her Uzbek language training at the University of Washington the following summer. Kamp was able to arrange her own language study at Tashkent University during the spring of 1991. “It was an amazing time to be there right at the end of the Soviet Union, and it shapes my understanding of Central Asia,” she said.  “I went back for dissertation research in 1992 to see the very beginning of independence, and this shapes my perspective and my research interests very deeply.”

Currently, Dr. Kamp is working on a book about the collectivization of agriculture in Uzbekistan that took place between 1929 and 1935.  It is based on research she conducted in the early 2000s with two other scholars and a small group of junior colleagues. Together, they carried out 120 oral history interviews in Uzbekistan with older citizens who had been children or young adults during collectivization.  “Those were phenomenal,” Dr. Kamp said about the interviews.  “Our informants were those who actually built those kolkhozes. Hearing about collectivization from the people who got the land and stayed on the land gives you a very different perspective then hearing about it from the people who were dispossessed.” It is stories such as these that make Dr. Kamp enjoy what she does.  “Part of what fascinates me in doing social history is the spectrum of human experience and how people reflect on the ways that dramatic social change affected them,” she said.  Dr. Kamp said the project has not only given her plenty of research to complete her current book, but it has also provided her with future ideas that she has been bouncing around.

 There are many reasons why Dr. Kamp is excited to be the newest appointment to the Central Eurasian Studies department at IU. In addition to all of IU’s resources and the opportunity to collaborate with other experts in her field, Dr. Kamp said she looks forward to teaching about the region she loves. Even though Dr. Kamp taught several Central Asia-themed courses during her sixteen years as a history professor at the University of Wyoming, she wanted to devote her teaching solely to Central Asia. She hopes her appointment at IU will allow her to do that. “When an opportunity arose to do something different, to be able to spend all of my time thinking, writing and teaching about Central Asia, it was a really exciting possibility. Those come up rarely,” she said. Dr. Kamp said she also hopes to work hand-in-hand with graduate students on collaborative projects.

This past spring, Dr. Kamp taught two courses in the department: “Politics and Society in Central Asia” and “Labor and Migration in Central Asia,” both of which had a graduate and undergraduate section. The latter was Dr.Kamp’s own creation. “Migration has been a profoundly important issue in Central Asia for the last 15 years. There’s a lot of scholarship about it and it’s one of those social trends that’s incredibly important to think about,” she said.  Next fall, Dr. Kamp will be teaching a class about gender, women and Islam in Central Asia in addition to a class that explores the social history of Central Asia during the Soviet period.  She is especially excited about the gender studies course, as it is her specialty.  “It’s at the heart of what I’ve written and studied about for many years,” she said.

Hayley Pangle, a dual degree graduate student in both Central Asian studies and Library Science, was enrolled in Dr. Kamp’s "Labor and Migration in Central Asia" class during the spring semester. She said the class is one of the best she has taken during her studies at IU. “My other CEUS courses have centered on Russia/the USSR or Iran/the Persian Empire, the big ‘power players’ of the region. I wanted to take something that was concerned with current trends, events, and issues in the heart of Eurasia,” Pangle said.  “Plus, one of my major personal projects this academic year was applying for a Boren Fellowship to participate in the American Council's Eurasian Regional Language Program (ERLP) in Tajikistan, and Dr. Kamp's class seemed like it would provide the perfect knowledge set before possibly going to that region.” Pangle said she has also enjoyed the readings, lecture and discussion, and documentaries that Dr. Kamp shows in her seminars. “I will definitely try to take another class with Dr. Kamp and I encourage anyone - even if the ‘Stans’ are out of their immediate scope of research - to take a class with her,” she said.