Central Asian Muslims have been in the margins of scholarship on Islam, and their history and intellectual heritage is not fully explored, appreciated and recognised in academic literature. As a unit within the Department of Academic Research and Publications (DARP), the Central Asian Studies Unit (CASU) aims to promote scholarship on the history, culture and traditions of Central Asian Muslims and particularly the Ismaili communities within the larger context of the Islamic traditions in the region. CASU advances its objectives through research, publication and collaboration with scholars and academic institutions in Russia and Central Asia. The geographical scope of CASU includes Tajikistan, Afghanistan, northern Pakistan and western China, as well as Russia, which hosts an increasing number of Ismailis from Central Asia.
CASU undertakes research in a wide range of subjects related to the history, intellectual traditions, cultural practices, oral history and written heritage of Central Asian Ismailis in conjunction with other Islamic traditions in the region. Its current research focuses on the evolution of Ismaili traditions in Central Asia, the study of Central Asian manuscripts and the modern history of the Ismaili communities residing in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, northern Pakistan and western China.
CASU is also engaged in the documentation and analyses of the oral and living traditions of the Ismailis in the Badakhshan regions of Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The Oral Tradition Project is implemented in collaboration with local scholars in Tajikistan.