Critical Silk Road Studies is a year-long series of workshops funded by the John E. Sawyer Seminars program of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. These workshops are focused upon a critical examination of the Silk Road. Our goal is to investigate the invention and development of the concept of the Silk Road as well as its on-going impact—its potential as well as its limitations for framing fields of academic inquiry and even policy-making. Today, the term "Silk Road" serves as a rubric in contexts ranging from the undergraduate curriculum to institutional funding and international symposia, and has become a household word through educational television and other popular media. Yet seldom has its definition been examined, and it remains a challenge to overcome the chronological, regional, linguistic, and disciplinary compartmentalization of specialists to consider the workings and effects of the trans-Eurasian Silk Road as a broader phenomenon.
Critical Silk Road Studies will expose our seminar members to a range of empirical expertise while considering collectively the macro-level issues from a perspective that is interdisciplinary, interregional and longue durée. We will bring together scholars of ancient and modern history, art history, religious studies, literature, musicology, anthropology, archaeology, as well as foreign policy academics and practitioners in an interrogation and exploration of the notion of the Silk Road and its usefulness towards understanding both past and present.