Seminar – 4 June – Riamsara Knapp

May 24th, 2019 by anna.c


Tuesday 4 June 2019

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Riamsara Knapp

MIASU, University of Cambridge

Himalayan Connections:
Melting Glaciers, Sacred Landscapes and Mobile Technologies in a Changing Climate

This presentation introduces the interdisciplinary ‘Himalayan Connections’ project, which explores environmental perceptions and decision-making at a pivotal moment of change in two Buddhist communities in the Himalaya, where environmental changes attributable to climate change are coinciding with the introduction of new connectivities such as roads and mobile telephony. The project’s primary case study site is in Limi, far western Nepal, and the secondary study site will be in north western Bhutan. Main questions that are being explored include (i) the historical perceptions and responses to environmental hazards (such as glacial lake outburst floods) in ‘remote and vulnerable’ places; (ii) how these perceptions and responses change with the introduction of new connectivities and exposure to climate change discourses; and (iii) how localised knowledge(s) can be scaled out and made relevant across the different decision-making levels of environmental management. This four-year project is jointly hosted by MIASU and the Dept. of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo, and funded by the Research Council of Norway (NORGLOBAL-2).

Seminar – 21 May – Séagh Kehoe

May 7th, 2019 by anna.c


Tuesday 21 May 2019

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Séagh Kehoe

University of Leicester

Losing the “Spirit of the Grasslands”:
Economic Development, Cultural Commercialisation, and the Online Politics of Representation of Tibetan Modernity in Contemporary China

A core concern of the Great Western Development Campaign (GWDC) is the pursuit of national unity, social stability and state security through promoting economic development across China’s “restive” Western regions. Heralded as a solution to “the ethnic problem” in Tibet, economic development is characterised as an effective way of assimilating Tibet into the mainstream Chinese economy, thereby facilitating greater national integration. As part of this nation-building project, Tibetan culture has been spotlighted as a potential resource for generating economic growth. While the commodification of Tibetan culture may provide some opportunities for greater visibility, recognition and identity formation for some Tibetans, this program of “cultural development” (wenhua fazhan文化发展) has also produced a contested regime of value between the Chinese state and Tibetan society over the relationship between economic development and cultural authenticity. This talk examines how state media frames and communicates this project, and how this contributes to a broader representation of Tibetan modernity. It also analyses the ways in which Tibetans counter such discourses across online spaces, and how they mobilise a particular understanding of homeland as a tool of resistance against official representations.

Lunchtime seminar – 1 May – Ka-ming Wu

April 25th, 2019 by anna.c


Mond Building Seminar Room, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RF

Wednesday 1 May 2019, 12.00–1.00

Ka-ming Wu

Visiting Fellow, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge 

Living with Waste: Becoming Free As Waste Pickers in Chinese Cities

Many think that waste pickers are precarious and stigmatized workers in the global south. But we have found that in China financial reasons alone were not what pushed migrants to enter into the job.  In fact waste pickers enter waste business also to experiment with new things in the city. Their strategies of working with waste offers a prism for understanding the wider dimension of social and cultural life in waste community– what we refer to as “living with waste.” The talk joins on-going discussion of the values of waste in the formation of capital, labor and cities.It asks how waste pickers make sense of their condition of having to living with waste in various ways. How do waste pickers talk about their job? Is it just about stigmatization and suffering? If dirt is “matter of out of place” (Douglas 1966), how do they deal with impurity and contamination on the daily basis? What kind of efforts do they make to normalize or create boundaries in the undesirable working and living environment?


Short Bio:

Ka-ming Wu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Cultural and Religious Studies at Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is currently a visiting fellow at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge University. Trained as a cultural anthropologist, she has taken up extensive ethnographic research to examine the cultural politics of state and society, waste, and most recently, gender and nationalism in contemporary China. Her book monograph Reinventing Chinese Tradition: The Cultural Politics of Late Socialism (UIP 2015) argues the nature of cultural production in rural China today can thought in terms of a “hyper folk,’ in which ritual practices, performances, heritage, craft productions, and other reenactments of the traditional can no longer be viewed as either simulations orauthentic originals, but a field where a whole range of social contests, contradictions, and changes are being negotiated. Her co-authored book Feiping Shenghuo: Lajichang De Jingji, Shequn Yu Kongjian (CUHK 2016) (Living with Waste: Economies, Communities and Spaces of Waste Collectors in China) has a great impact on the public discussion of waste and has been covered by major media. Her academic papers were published in high impact journals including Journal of Asian StudiesModern China, The China Journal, Cities, Urban Geography, Ethnology, and Taiwan: The Radical Journal of Social Studies.

Seminar – 7 May – Ildikó Bellér-Hann

April 25th, 2019 by anna.c


Tuesday 7 May 2019

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Ildikó Bellér-Hann

University of Copenhagen

Uyghur Muslim Identity: Local historical narratives from Eastern Xinjiang

Studying Muslims in socialist Xinjiang is difficult due to the government’s increasingly repressive policies. Scholars have investigated Islam among the Uyghur with reference to reformism, symbolic resistance and contemporary adaptations to state policies. This paper shows that the emergence of local history on the margins of state-dominated historiography can also offer valuable insights into the shaping of contemporary Muslim identities. 

The narratives in question are situated at the juncture where the past is actualized in the present. They are connected to the pre-socialist era in important ways, but their construction is constrained by the Chinese nationalist narrative, by censorship and self-censorship. Incorporating both legends and historically verifiable events, these writings aspire to a comprehensive history of the oasis if Qumul (Hami) and its Muslim population. Yet in spite of their connection to actual historical situations and factual events, the narratives remain stories or tales first and foremost. They can be and typically are read as compact, metaphorical commentaries on the political realities of Chinese socialism that constitute the narrators’ own context. The texts avoid either outright opposition or complete subordination to state-sponsored historiography, largely by making creative use of the latter’s inherent ambiguities. They present Islam as an inalienable component of local identity without portraying religion as a card that trumps all others. The narratives in question enrich our understanding of local perspectives and demonstrate that under conditions of severe repression local history can serve as a site for the cautious expression of ethnic and religious identities.

Visiting Scholars – Easter Term 2019

April 25th, 2019 by anna.c

Easter Term 2019

We welcome the following visiting scholars this term –

January 2018 – December 2019: Valeriya Gazizova, post doctoral research associate working on her project:
‘Clandestine Buddhism’ in Soviet Kalmykia (1958-1988) and its role in the post-Soviet Buddhist revival’. The project is funded by the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation in Buddhist Studies

April 2019 – October 2019: Tegüs-ün Süye, Inner Mongolia University
Working on her research on buddhist literature: ‘The Story of Maudgalyāyana (Molun Toyin) Rescuing His Mother’

April 2019 – August 2019: Sargai Sha, Independent scholar
Working on her project: ‘Ecological restoration in a mining area: A case study in BaiNaimiao coal mine in Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia’