Visiting Scholars – Michaelmas 2015

September 24th, 2015 by admin

Michaelmas Term 2015

We welcome the following visiting scholars this term –

March 2015 – March 2016: Zhu Shengzhong, Southwest University, Chongqing, China
Mongols’ means of livelihood and environment in Southwest China in history

September 2015 – June 2016: Munkh-Erdene Gantulga, Mongolian University of Science and Technology, Mongolia
‘Non-Mongol’ stand: Mining, development and identity in Mongolia

September 2015 – December 2016: Lynn Badia, University of Alberta, Canada
Environmental and Energy Humanities

September  2015 – May 2016: Mark Aldenderfer, University of California Merced
Leverhulme Trust award Visiting Professor

October 2015 – May 2016: Chen Hong, Inner Mongolia University, China
Development in pastoral community in perspective of herder’s subjectivity: An anthropological study of a village in Dam Gzhung rdzong in Tibet

Michaelmas Term 2015 – Seminar Programme

September 22nd, 2015 by anna.c

Please see below for this term’s programme which begins on Tuesday October 13 2015.

Research Seminars are held in the Mond Building Seminar Room, Free School Lane, Cambridge, CB2 3RF from 4.30–6.00


PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF DAY: Seminar – 10 June – Olga Shaglanova

May 27th, 2015 by anna.c




4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Olga Shaglanova

Ethnographic museum of Transbaikal peoples, Buryatia, Russia

Chinese Labour Migrants in Buryatia: Between Legality and Illegality

In recent years the regional authority of the Republic of Buryatia has been actively developing a comprehensive cooperation with the Northern provinces of China. However, while cooperation in educational and cultural spheres have a dynamic character and visible outcomes, economic collaborations still remain at the level of agreements and exchange of experiences. While regional officials on both sides of the Russian-Chinese border are discussing the future economic projects in the framework of legal laws and official treaties Chinese business in Buryatia operates according to semi-official rules and illegal schemes. The Chinese mainly are involved in such sectors of the Buryat economy as investment and construction business; services sector. For the partners of semi-legal business an important criterion of success is trust. The trust-based dialogue allows the parties to determine their roles and responsibilities to satisfy mutual business interests. The scheme of such personal relations is largely contrary to state laws, however it can coexist invisibly together with the official system of economic relations. This research illustrates that those Chinese who have an illegal status are more likely than official labour migrants to become trustful and adaptive in the host community and to contribute to mutual understanding and fruitful collaboration due to the greater involvement in local life.

Seminar – 26 May – Heidi Fjeld

May 19th, 2015 by anna.c


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

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.