Seminar – 29 November – Joseph Long

November 21st, 2016 by anna.c

Tuesday 29 November 2016

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Joseph Long

University of Aberdeen

Masters, Grandmothers, Indigenes and Incomers: Mediating migration and belonging through Western Buryat ritual practice

In Western Buryat communities of Southern Siberia there are formal analogies between ritualised hospitality practiced in the home and collective rites that constitute a relationship of reciprocity with ‘master’ spirits of sacred places. In recent years such ritual practices have been mobilized alongside discourses of indigeneity to agitate for the preservation of sacred places and assert Buryat relations with the land. This paper discusses the ways in which paradigms of hospitality allow a notion of indigeneity to be reconciled with recognition of predecessors on the land as well as a way of mediating relationships between Buryats and more recent settlers.  At the same time, the publicisation of rituals dedicated to ‘grandmother’ spirits offer a chance for Western Buryats migrating within the Baikal region to find precedents in the past movements of women between communities and to establish new relationships to territory and place. The paper will engage with recent returns to the anthropology of hospitality to explore the relational nature of assertions of indigeneity in this context.  Paradigms of reciprocity will also be examined as grounds for intercultural dialogue and the recognition of claims to indigeneity in contemporary Siberia.

MIASU and the Centre of Ethnographic Theory Seminar Series – Masterhood, Hospitality and Mobility

November 14th, 2016 by anna.c

The Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit (MIASU) at Cambridge has partnered with the Centre of Ethnographic Theory (SOAS) for a Seminar series (2016-2017) titled ‘Masterhood, Hospitality and Mobility”

The notion of the ‘master/owner’ (Mong. ezen, Tib. bdag) is extraordinarily prevalent across Inner Asia. It appears not only as a multi-scalar idea in social realms, as a way of conceptualising the ruler of a state, guardian of property, host, or manager of a household; it is also evidently a cosmological notion, spanning a vast range from spirit owner or master of a territory to the ‘masters’ of wild animal species, geological formations, or even human-made implements. This master/owner concept is relational, and it implies many of the positional switches found in hospitality: the generosity to others, including strangers, expected of the host, but on the cosmological plane something like a reversal, when offerings are made by a human host to an invited master or owning spirit to give thanks or in hope of gaining favour. The ambiguity about who (when) is a host/master/owner, and who the guest, may be related – we suggest for debate – to the nature of a mobile society, where both human and spirit masters/owners circulate. These alternating relations we suggest may bear on seemingly paradoxical concepts of landscape, in particular understandings of the sacred sites where spirit masters hold sway, such as the Mongolian oboo, the Tibetan lha-tse, the Tyvan ovaa or the Buriat barisa, where it is characteristic for such a site to be seen both as a centre and as a boundary marker. Following the idea that some regions provide the opportunity to pursue particular problems in anthropological theory, we would like this seminar to pose the idea of the ‘master/owner’ as a concept-cum-heuristic. We aim in this way to reflect on the wider potential of ethnographic theory emerging from Inner Asia as a path to reconfiguring debates on the relation between place and power, incorporation and exclusion, cosmology and action and examine how these concepts and subjectivities are reproduced or domesticated by gendered rituals practices and strategies of alliance in the region.

The first two seminars are scheduled as follows:

Tuesday, 15 November


Adam Yuet Chau (FAMES, University of Cambridge)

4:30-6:00 pm, Mond Building Seminar Room

Division of Social Anthropology, The Mond Building

Free School Lane, Cambridge

Tuesday, 29 November


Joseph Long (University of Aberdeen)

4:30-6:00 pm, Mond Building Seminar Room

Division of Social Anthropology, The Mond Building

Free School Lane, Cambridge

Download full poster Here:

Seminar – 15 November – Adam Chau

November 4th, 2016 by anna.c


Tuesday 15 November 2016

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Adam Chau

University of Cambridge

Hosting, Not Hospitality

‘Hospitality’ as a theme and concept has become increasingly prominent in anthropological theorising. However, a conceptual muddle exists around the nature of the host-guest relationship, a muddle that will not go away if we continue to deploy the same term (i.e. hospitality) to analyse a wide variety of host-guest scenarios across far-flung ethnographic regions. In this presentation I will propose a new conceptual framing, that of ‘hosting’, to accentuate the difference between two ideal-typical host-guest scenarios: receiving guests who are known to, and have been invited by, the host (what I call ‘hosting’) and receiving visitors, often strangers, who have, sometimes forcefully, made people into hosts (i.e. the classic hospitality scenario). I will use cases drawn from Chinese social and religious life as well as from Christianity, and will perforce engage in a critique of Derrida’s conceptualisation of ‘hostipitality’.

Visiting Scholars – Michaelmas 2016

November 3rd, 2016 by anna.c

Michaelmas Term 2016

We welcome the following visiting scholars this term –

October 2016 – September 2018: Sören Urbansky, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich
‘Faces of Fear – Anti-Asian sentiments in a global perspective”

September  2016 – December 2016: Fuerwa Daoerjiala, Inner Mongolia University, Hohhot
Working with Dr Uradyn Bulag on the Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Project

October 2016 – November 2016: Rustam Sabirov, Institute of Asian and African Studies, Moscow State University
‘Phenomenon of Democracy in Mongolia’


October 19th, 2016 by admin

To mark the 30th anniversary of MIASU Dr Sian Lazar of the Division of Social Anthropology interviewed members of the Unit to learn about the work of the Unit from its founding to the present day.