Seminar – 9 June – Olga Shaglanova

May 27th, 2015 by anna.c
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ALL WELCOME

Tuesday 9 June

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Olga Shaglanova

Ethnographic museum of Transbaikal peoples, Buryatia, Russia

Chinese Labour Migrants in Buryatia: Between Illegality and Legality

Seminar – 26 May – Heidi Fjeld

May 19th, 2015 by anna.c
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Tuesday 26 May

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Heidi Fjeld

University of Oslo

The Rise of the Polyandrous House:
Reform and Relatedness in a Central Tibetan Village

More than sixty years of social engineering and economic reforms have brought massive change in Chinese kinship construction and practices (Brandtstädter and Santos 2009). Although Tibet shares many of the Chinese experiences of revolution and reforms, transformations of family life have constituted in fundamentally different ways, particularly in the rural areas. This paper addresses contemporary marriage practices in rural central Tibet, focusing on polyandry.

Due to modernisation and economic change, China’s One Child policy, and the often all-encompassing nature of the State, one might expect a decline in polyandry in Tibet following its inclusion into the PRC. Based on fieldwork in Sharlung village south of Shigatse city in the beginning of 2000s, this paper shows the opposite: In Sharlung and its neighbouring areas, the majority of the farmers arranged polyandrous marriages, including those with no previous history of plural marriage. This is indeed surprising, as polyandry is not only illegal and frowned upon in Chinese media it is also highly contested among Tibetan urbanites.

In this paper I show how, following the Household Responsibility System implemented in 1980/81 which emphasised the household as a corporate group, local farmers have engaged in processes of socio-economic mobility in which they incorporate practices associated with the former landholders from pre-1959 Tibet. Central to these processes of transformation is the establishment of named estates and the formal arrangement of marriage and, within that, fraternal polyandry. Despite the re-constitution of local social hierarchies following the Chinese land- and social reforms, the former local elites have not only re-established themselves as high ranked, their social practices also remain a source of inspiration for the former landless labourers.

The increase and spread of polyandry in Sharlung provides an opportunity to rethink not only our analyses of marriage and kinship in Central Tibet, but also to investigate the conceptual constitution of the domestic unit itself. Employing a house-perspective, I aim to reframe understandings of central Tibetan social organisation by developing a more holistic analysis of marriage, kinship, land, ritual and architecture – aspects that have so far been compartmentalised in Tibet anthropology.


Lunchtime Seminar – 19 May – Mauricio Hernandez

May 14th, 2015 by anna.c
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A lunchtime seminar will be held in the Mond Building Seminar Room, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RF

Tuesday 19 May 2015, 12.00–1.00

All welcome

Mauricio Hernandez

University of Cambridge

Assessing Human Health in pre-Silk Road Gansu: Osteoarchaeology, Nutrition and Cultural Contact


This preliminary analysis of population health in the Gansu/Hexi corridor is based on the inherent association between human physiology and culture. The Mogou site was occupied during the Qijia and Siwa cultural periods, when inhabitants were progressively exposed to cultural contact and technological exchange with Central Asian groups. To determine whether these changes affected their health, femur lengths were compared across time to discern fluctuations in adult stature. Moreover, limb bone cross-sectional area and shape were compared between earlier and later periods to evaluate if shifts in trade or subsistence practices could be identified. Lastly, the data was evaluated along gender lines, in order to ascertain whether any changes differentially affected males or females. Together with material culture, the scientific study of human remains in early Bronze Age Gansu can provide additional clues about the livelihood of its inhabitants so that better models of the past may be created.

Seminar – 12 May – Lauren Bonilla

May 7th, 2015 by anna.c
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Tuesday 12 May

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Lauren Bonilla

University College London

Extractive Atmospheres: Mining, Territory, and the Politics of Dust in the Gobi Desert

Mongolia’s southern Gobi desert has become a territory in transformation due to the rapid expansion of mining projects and ancillary infrastructures.  In this talk, I discuss the combined transformations of subsoil, land, and air, and explore how they are productive of new material and affective ‘atmospheres’ that shape life and politics both in the region and beyond.  I use the term ‘atmospheres’ to capture, on the one hand, the materiality of mining in the Gobi, where dust pollution from digging and transporting resources in an already dust-prone environment has become a site of public controversy and concern.  On the other hand, I use the term to capture how people sense and embody the political economy, spatiality, and governance of new mining activities.  I suggest that attending to these multi-layered atmospheres reveals emerging forms of subjectivity, territory, and geopolitics in a region increasingly characterized by resource extraction.

Seminar – 28 April – Bumochir Dulam

April 17th, 2015 by anna.c
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Tuesday 28 April 2015

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Bumochir Dulam

National University of Mongolia

The Tragedy of ‘Environmental Pastoralism’ in Building Mongolian Identity

In the current paper I argue that in the last two decades a new concept of pastoralism has emerged from the discourses of the “anthropocene”, the “tragedy of the commons”, and a Nobel Prize winning elaboration of the “governing the commons”, which I call  ”environmental pastoralism”. The new conception initiated an understanding of “bad pastoralism” that essentially contradicts the traditional idea of pastoralism that has been strongly employed in framing the national identity. In this way the new environmental pastoralism treats the Mongol identity in the same manner that social evolutionary theory did when it referred to nomads as ‘barbarians’.