WiP: Virtual Roundtable on Language Learning and Language Competencies for Research in Eurasia

CRRC, ARISC and American Councils are pleased to announce the 5th talk of the Fall 2022 Tbilisi Works-in-Progress series!
****This week’s WiP session will take place in virtual format only****https://iliauni-edu-ge.zoom.us/…/tZElcu…

Roundtable on “Language Learning and Language Competencies for Research in Eurasia

Scholars of ethnography and anthropology in recent years have undertaken reflexive reevaluations of the role of language competencies in field research, yet few such discussions have taken place in other fields. What language competencies are required to conduct credible research in Eurasia, given the vast linguistic and cultural diversity of the region? Where does one find the time and resources to acquire these competencies? And more generally, are the unspoken assumptions about language competencies and language learning realistic and practical?This week’s WiP session will be in the format of a roundtable consisting of an international group of experienced scholars in history and political science to discuss issues related to language competencies and language learning for research in Eurasia, including the challenges of working with multilingual sources; funding, time and resources for language study (especially for less commonly taught languages); opportunities created by virtual study; language competency and the “mythology of fieldwork”; using translation and research assistance; and the possibly disruptive impact of digital translation tools and digital humanities.


Orel Beilinson, Yale University

Eli Feiman, US Department of State

Erin Hutchinson, Univ. of Colorado at Boulder

Jeremy Johnson, Glean AI

Naira Sahakyan, Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute

Moderator: Timothy Blauvelt, American Councils Georgia and Ilia State University

Orel Beilinson is a Ph.D. candidate at Yale University in the history of modern Europe and Eurasia and a Junior Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Human Science (IWM) in Vienna, and has studied an extensive range of languages for his multi-national dissertation project.

Eli Feiman researches Russian and Central Asian public opinion as an analyst in the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Opinion Research. For the 2022-23 academic year, he is a research fellow at National Intelligence University in Bethesda, Maryland. His areas of expertise include authoritarian politics, regime durability, and mixed-methods research. Prior to joining the Department of State, Eli completed a doctorate in Political Science at the University of Michigan in which he developed a theory of authoritarian party creation based on eighteen months of field research in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. His last presentation at the Tbilisi Works in Progress Series was in June 2011.

Erin Hutchinson is assistant professor of history at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her book project explores how Soviet writers, especially those of rural origins, contributed to the development of nationalism in the Soviet Union after the death of Stalin.

Jeremy Johnson is a data scientist for Glean AI, a financial technology start up specializing in natural language processing and business intelligence. He has a PhD in Anthropology and History from the University of Michigan.

Dr. Naira Sahakyan earned her Ph.D. from the University of Amsterdam. Currently, she is a senior researcher at the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute and a Visiting Scholar at the University of Cambridge. She is also lecturing at the American University of Armenia and Yerevan State University. Naira is the author of Muslim Reformers and the Bolsheviks: The Case of Daghestan (Routledge, 2022). Her current research interests are the transformations of ethnoreligious nationalisms in the Caucasus and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict’s impact on the identities of the people of the countries of the Caucasus. Naira’s research has been published in high-ranked journals including: Revolutionary Russia, Caucasus Survey, the journal of Contemporary European Studies.

In observation of the spirit of the Chatham House Rule, the talk will not be recorded and we courteously request that the other participants refrain from recording and/or distributing it as well. The opinions expressed in WiP talks are those of the speakers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC, ARISC or of American Councils.
WiP is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that normally takes place at the new office of CRRC at Liziko Kavtaradze St. 1. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.