Seminar – 13 November – Michael Long

October 30th, 2018 by anna.c


Tuesday 13 November 2018

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Michael Long

MIASU, University of Cambridge

Culture: The Politics of Bounded Passion

‘Culture’ is often a taken-for-granted term. Yet in China, the notion of ‘culture’, or wenhua, has a lengthy history and is inseparable from politics. So as to attempt to develop a new theoretical perspective when engaging with contemporary Chinese culture/politics, this essay attempts to elaborate upon and develop anthropologist Michael Puett’s engagements with Chinese classic theorizations of ‘ritual’ (li) through a discussion regarding its Chinese institutionalized partner, ‘music’ (yue). With a particular focus on perceptions, collection, and ‘use’ (liyong) of Chinese folk-arts in the 20th century, this essay attempts to reconceptualize ‘culture’ in a unique Chinese context.

Seminar – 30 October – Elizabeth Fox

October 19th, 2018 by anna.c


Tuesday 30 October 2018

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Elizabeth Fox

University College London

Between Iron and Coal: Enacting Kinship, Bureaucracy and Infrastructure in the Ger Districts of Ulaanbaatar

Elizabeth will be presenting parts of her forthcoming PhD thesis, the abstract of which is below:

Presenting an urban-focused account of life in contemporary Mongolia, this thesis moves from the intractability of structure-agency debates to engage with the tensions between obligation and creativity and form and failure explored through the polysemic metaphors of ‘iron’ and ‘coal’. Based on long-term fieldwork in the outskirts – ger districts – of Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, it examines how people make and unmake (or are made and unmade by) relationships and how the material and linguistic enaction of these relations shapes life on many scales (Sneath 2006).

The thesis commits to developing its theoretical insights out of the ethnographic material. Rather than relying on conceptions of urbanity developed from sedentary societies, it develops a novel perspective on rural-urban migration in Mongolia that draws on historical links between power and movement. Likewise, positioned against the tropes of ‘sedenterised nomads’, the thesis instead traces complex lines of continuity and rupture in the ger districts across social spheres, focusing on: the domestic use of kinterms, the materialisation of networks through the exchange of meat and other resources, the assemblage of the state by bureaucratic technologies in the local welfare office, and the ‘hosting’ of bureaucrats in ger district homes. Inspired particularly by approaches to language (Agha 2007) and hospitality (Herzfeld 1987, 1992; Candea and da Col 2012), it examines how words and things can simultaneously be manifestations of obligatory forms and performative enactions of a present-in-the-making.

Attending reflexively to language, the thesis also experiments with forms of writing, its theoretical interventions embedded into the very structuring of the chapters (Strathern 1991). Such experiments in anthropological method are demanded by the nature of the study, attending as it does to iterations of daily life betwixt and between. This thesis thus not only delves ethnographically into the creative tensions between form and practice but also attempts to reconstitute these very tensions themselves.

Seminar – 16 October – Barbara Bodenhorn and Olga Ulturgasheva

October 2nd, 2018 by anna.c


Tuesday 16 October 2018

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Barbara Bodenhorn and Olga Ulturgasheva

Fellow Emerita, Pembroke College, Cambridge and University of Manchester

Rules of Hunting; Rules of Gaming: Eveny Responses to an Inupiaq Video Game with Implications for Learning Strategies

The production of Never Alone (a recent video game incorporating Iñupiaq narrative traditions and aesthetics) is one example of how Arctic peoples use digital technologies to spark young people’s interest in their own knowledge of how to survive in extreme conditions. Using comparative material from game players in Siberia and Alaska, this article explores interfaces between the knowledge needed to play such games and that required for hunting in real time. In both cases, successful participants need to be able to observe behaviour patterns in order to make strategic decisions, but in different ways. In particular, the authors explore how the shifting ground of changing environmental conditions (including animal behaviour) frames Eveny understanding of what their young people need to learn in order to navigate these changes. Drawing on Eveny and Iñuniaq discussions, we suggest that the pedagogical impact of such games is strengthened when combined with face-to-face interactions with local knowledge holders.

Michaelmas Term – Seminar Programme

September 27th, 2018 by anna.c

Please see below for this term’s programme which begins on Tuesday October 16 2018.

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


‘Inner Asia’ call for papers

September 21st, 2018 by anna.c

‘Inner Asia’ call for papers

Inner Asia is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal with emphasis on the social sciences, humanities and cultural studies. Published since 1999, Inner Asia is currently one of the very few research-orientated publications in the world in which scholars can address the contemporary and historical problems of the region.

Of particular interest to the journal are studies in the following areas: the rise of political and economic nationalism, the introduction of markets and changing concepts of property, the re-emergence of religions, the negotiation of ethnicity and identity, urbanisation and demography, concepts of modernity and post-modernity, environmental and conservation issues, and history and historiography in the aftermath of the decades of socialist governance.

Notes for contributors giving details of format, length etc. available at: