The University of Central Asia’s (UCA) Senior Research Fellow and Cornell University Professor Karim-Aly Kassam is no stranger to Central Asia and its academic institutions. Dr Kassam has spent the last seven years researching the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, working closely with UCA and the Academy of Sciences, Republic of Tajikistan. It is no surprise he was elected Foreign Member (Academician) of the Academy of Sciences, Republic of Tajikistan. Dr Kassam was also appointed English Language Editor of the Academy’s Journal of the Biological and Medical Sciences. The ceremony took place during the annual meeting of the Academy in Dushanbe on 12 December 2012.
The election followed a presentation by Dr Kassam to the Academy, entitled Knowledge as hope for the challenges of the 21st century, based on research with indigenous communities at high latitudes and high altitudes, including the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Dr Kassam presented findings demonstrating neglected connections between climate change and food security; medicinal plants and conservation of plant biodiversity and health; sacred sites with ecological sustainability; and indigenous knowledge with science.
“I am extremely honoured to have been elected to the Academy of Sciences,” said Dr Kassam, “It is an important milestone, not only for me as a scholar and friend of Tajikistan, but also for the young Central Asian scholars and the University of Central Asia, with whom I work. I look forward to continuing and expanding my fruitful partnership with the Academy, contributing to rigorous and ecologically sound action-oriented research that can be applied to addressing the quality of life of mountain communities in the region.”
Dr Ilolov, President of the Academy, and Vice-President Dr Yakubova acknowledged Dr Kassam’s contribution to generating and preserving unique knowledge and understanding of mountain communities, as well as his mentoring of young Central Asian scholars, including those on his research team.
Dr Kassam has a long-standing relationship with UCA. In 2006, he presented UCA’s inaugural Learning Event Seminar at UCA Khorog. In 2010, he joined UCA as a Senior Research Fellow. In partnership with UCA, with funding from the Christensen Fund and the National Science Foundation and on-the-ground support from Focus Humanitarian Assistance Afghanistan and the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme, Dr Kassam and his team are developing an internet-based curriculum on research topics for ten universities globally which will link local students at various universities around the world, including Cornell University, Beijing University and UCA.
He is an International Associate Professor of Environmental and Indigenous Studies in the Department of Natural Resources and the American Indian Program at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell. From 2008-11, he also served as Director of Graduate Studies for the American Indian Program.
Dr Kassam has published widely, and selected publications on Central Asia include “Viewing Change Through the Prism of Indigenous Human Ecology: Findings from the Afghan and Tajik Pamirs” in the journal Human Ecology (2009); “Pluralism, Resilience, and the Ecology of Survival: Case Studies from the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan” in Ecology and Society (2010); “Medicinal plant use and Health Sovereignty: Findings from the Tajik and Afghan Pamirs in Human Ecology (2010); “Ecology of Time: Calendar of the Human Body in the Pamir Mountains” in Journal of Persianate Studies (2011); and “Human Ecology of Vulnerability and Adaptation: Case Studies of Climate Change from High Latitudes and Altitudes” in the book Climate Change – Socioeconomic Effects (2011). Professor Kassam has also co-written and co-directed two films on his research in Central Asia entitled Nurturing Knowledge: Plant Biodiversity and Health Sovereignty in the Pamir Mountains (2012) and Protecting the Sacred: The Conservation of Three Sacred Sites in the Pamir Mountains (2012).