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Book Talk. Politicizing Islam in Central Asia: From the Russian Revolution to the Afghan and Syrian Jihads
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Please join the Harriman Institute for a book talk by Kathleen Collins. Moderated by Elise Giuliano.

Few observers anticipated a surge of Islamism in Central Asia after seventy years of forced communist atheism. Yet, Islamism became the dominant form of political opposition in post-Soviet Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In Politicizing Islam in Central Asia, Kathleen Collins explores the causes, dynamics, and variation in Islamist movements—first within the USSR, and then in the post-Soviet states of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Drawing upon extensive ethnographic and historical research, she explains the strategies and relative success of each Central Asian Islamist movement. Collins argues that in each case, state repression of Islam, by Soviet and post-Soviet regimes, together with the diffusion of religious ideologies, motivated successive waves of Islamist mobilization. Sweeping in scope, this book traces the origins and trajectories of Central Asian Islamist movements from the Soviet era through the Tajik Civil War, the Afghan jihad against the United States, and the foreign fighter movement in Syria.

Kathleen Collins is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota, where she specializes in Soviet and post-Soviet politics, as well as Islamism and Islamist movements. She is also a faculty affiliate in Islamic Studies. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford University with a focus on Russia and Muslim Eurasia. Professor Collins is the author of Clan Politics and Regime Transition in Central Asia (Cambridge University Press), which won the Central Eurasian Studies Society Award for the Best Book in the Social Sciences on Central Eurasia, 2008. Her second book is Politicizing Islam in Central Asia: From the Russian Revolution to the Afghan and Syrian Jihads (Oxford University Press 2023). Collins is a recipient of the national Carnegie Scholar Award for innovative research in international security. Collins has worked on projects for the United States Agency for International Development, the United Nations Development Program, the International Crisis Group, the National Bureau of Asian Research, and Freedom House. She has presented her work to multiple US government agencies, including the Helsinki Commission, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. She has spoken extensively to the media about Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.