Seminar 29 April – Troy Sternberg

March 25th, 2014 by anna.c
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Mond Building Seminar Room

4.30–6.00

All welcome

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Troy Sternberg

University of Oxford

Desert Boundaries: the Once and Future Gobi

Abstract:

When Marco Polo journeyed to the court of Kublai Khan in 1271 he traversed a great sandy desert filled with ‘extraordinary illusions’ that passed through several name changes before becoming known as the Gobi, the world’s third largest desert. Early atlases and writings have identified the vast expanse beyond

China’s Great Wall since the 16th century. The term Gobi first appears in a 1706 French map; its continued usage is a rare case of Mongolian ascendancy over the Chinese. In our era of data and demarcation with place names used to confer past ownership I examine how the Mongolian term ‘gobi’ rather than the Chinese equivalent ‘shamo’ survived and consider if the past offers insight to present conceptualization and gives an indication of future implications.

Through exploration of the Gobi as a mapping term research seeks to understand how the desert was conceptualized and identified as a geographical region and as an economic sphere and a political presence. Historically contested between China and Russia with Mongolia as a proxy, the desert is now a source of mineral riches, 25 million people and rapid development. Yet the term Gobi is not recognized in China’s geographical lexicon. China dominates the economic sphere without asserting physical control; does past suzerainty suggest a future inclination? New contextualization presents the Gobi as a multi-dimensional space that, rather than a past construction, portends an emergent consciousness no longer isolated and insulated from regional and global currents.

Extra seminar at FAMES – 14 March – Christopher Atwood

March 13th, 2014 by anna.c
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This extra session by Christopher Atwood is being co-orginised with and held at FAMES:

Rooms 8 & 9, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Sidgwick Avenue

5:00

All welcome

Friday 14 March

Christopher Atwood

Indiana University

The Campaigns of Chinggis Khan and the Origin of Mongolian Historiography

Traditionally Mongolian history writing began with the Secret History of the Mongols, the famous chronicle that covers the legendary ancestors of Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, his childhood and youth, and his reign and that of his son Ögedei. Mixing prose and poetry, this work has been one of the great monuments of Mongolian history and literature since its rediscovery in the early 20th century. But too often this work has been presented as springing full-formed from a vague and undefined “oral tradition.” Recent research on the Record of the Campaigns of Chinggis Khan, a source preserved in Chinese and Persian translation, but originally written in Mongolian, provides the context from which the Secret History of the Mongols emerged. Compiled by a cut-and-paste methodology from previously existing Mongolian language histories and biographies, the Record of the Campaigns of Chinggis Khan combined with other compendia of Mongolian history preserved in Chinese and Persian translation shows how the original focus of Mongolian historiography was not so much the “rise of the Mongols” as the fate of their predecessor kingdoms in the Mongolian plateau.

Christopher P. Atwood is an associate professor of Mongolian studies at Indiana University, where he teaches on the Mongol world empire, modern Mongolia, Sino-Mongolian relations, and the social and intellectual history of the Mongolian plateau. He is currently preparing a critical edition of the Chinese text of the Record of the Campaigns of Chinggis Khan, with full textual, source-critical, philological, and historical commentary. Other areas of current interest include the development of imperial historiographies, the social history of Mongolian mobile pastoralism, and the Mongol empire and the “early modern” question. His publications include, Young Mongols and Vigilantes in Inner Mongolia’s Interregnum Decades and the Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire.

Seminar 11 March – Christopher Atwood

March 6th, 2014 by anna.c
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Mond Building Seminar Room

4:30–6:00

All welcome

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Christopher Atwood

Indiana University

Imperial Nomadism and Mobile Pastoralism: The State and Mobility in Medieval Inner Asia

Historians of Inner Asia have often stressed the ecological constraints imposed by the environment on nomadic polities. These ecological constraints have been seen as demanding dispersal of population and seasonal migrations governed tightly by the imperative of maximizing livestock productivity. Recently, however, advances in historical geography and textual research have allowed a number of itineraries of leaders in nomadic empires to be traced. The resulting picture is, however, not one of ecological constraint, but rather elite-level Inner Asian nomadism as a political strategy, sharing technology with the mobile pastoralism of herders, but governed by fundamentally different aims. Indeed as James Scott has argued with the Southeast Asian state, it is likely that this imperial nomadism routinely sacrificed pastoral efficiency for the needs of controlling people and capturing resources.


Christopher P. Atwood is an associate professor of Mongolian studies at Indiana University, where he teaches on the Mongol world empire, modern Mongolia, Sino-Mongolian relations, and the social and intellectual history of the Mongolian plateau. He is currently preparing a critical edition of the Chinese text of the Record of the Campaigns of Chinggis Khan, with full textual, source-critical, philological, and historical commentary. Other areas of current interest include the development of imperial historiographies, the social history of Mongolian mobile pastoralism, and the Mongol empire and the “early modern” question. His publications include, Young Mongols and Vigilantes in Inner Mongolia’s Interregnum Decades and the Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire.

Ambassador visits MIASU

March 6th, 2014 by anna.c
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On Tuesday 18 February the new Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Mr N.Tulga, visited the Mongolian and Inner Asia studies Unit at the University of Cambridge.

He met University staff, students and visiting scholars and discussed current research, strategies and future plans.

Seminar 4 March – Urmila Nair

February 27th, 2014 by anna.c
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Mond Building Seminar Room

All welcome

4:30-6:00

Tuesday 4 March

Urmila Nair

MIASU, University of Cambridge

Elision and Imagination: Shifting Monastic Subjectivities in Tibetan Exile

Via a study of voices, this paper discusses how Buddhist ritual shapes, and is shaped by, historically contingent subjectivities. The Nechung kang-so (bskang gso) ritual is performed by Tibetan monks in exile. Imagination is a key ritual act, and elisions are crucial to ritual design, the elisions being of ritual actor and action, whereby efficacy is designed to obtain independent of particular actors. Many monks in exile being relatively unschooled in the monastery’s traditions, their imaginings of elisions, and the poetics thereof, often diverge from prescriptive imaginings. Furthermore, their imaginings involve modern exilic imaginaries, beyond the ritual’s traditional horizon. Their imaginings, arising from subjectivities forged in exile, thus shape the ritual. To discern how the ritual shapes monastic subjectivities, I offer a reading thereof through the lens of a Buddhist conceptual pair, the (re)valuations of which, in ritual and its related contexts, indicate the ritual’s shaping of monastic subjectivities.