Lunchtime seminar – 26 April – Tinley Namgyal

April 20th, 2017 by anna.c

A lunchtime seminar will be held in the Mond Building Seminar Room, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RF

Wednesday 26 April 2017, 12.30–1.30

All welcome

Tinley Namgyal

Independent Researcher, Tibet Autonomous Region

The revival of a Milarepa shrine in Tibet: a first hand account

Abandoned during the Cultural Revolution, the holy shrine of Trakar Taso in south-western Tibet was gradually revived in the late 1980s. Linked to the great Tibetan mystic Milarepa (c. 1052 – c. 1135 CE), this site was famous as a pilgrimage destination, a monastery and an early printing house. As such it appears in many historical accounts and its revival has had a huge symbolic significance. In this extra seminar, one of the protagonists of this process will offer an account of his experience as a rare opportunity to explore the interface between Tibetan civil society and the state in the management of Tibetan cultural heritage.

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

April 4th, 2017 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.

See poster for details of the upcoming talks in the series during the Easter term:

masterhood 2017

Seminar – 7 March – Uradyn Bulag

February 27th, 2017 by anna.c


Tuesday 7  March 2017

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Uradyn Bulag

University of Cambridge

Visible and Invisible ‘Masters’ of Ethnic Regional Autonomy in China

China is now bracing itself  for the 70th anniversary of its first provincial level autonomous region, Inner Mongolia, founded on the 1st of May 1947. While there will be no shortage of celebration of achievements, I propose that the anniversary provides an opportune moment to examine the nature of China’s ‘nationality regional autonomy’ system. Who will host the congratulatory delegations from the national capital and other provinces and autonomous regions? This is a key question because the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region is officially defined as a multinational autonomous region with the Mongols as the core/master (zhuti) nationality, and the Han Chinese as the majority (duoshu) nationality. While the tension between the two major entities has been resolved through making one (Mongol) visible and the other (Han Chinese) invisible, we now see open calls for reversing the order, so as to make the majority Han Chinese commensurate with the principle of majoritarian democracy within the autonomous region and their status as the core/master nationality of China at large. In this regard, I will examine two cases of hosting, one by Han Chinese leaders at the national level hosting minority leaders in the early 1950s, and the other by Mongol leaders hosting Han Chinese intellectuals in the early 1960s. These cases show that inter-ethnic relationship within an autonomous area, or between an autonomous nationality and the Chinese central state has become as much one of host-guest relationship as one of master-slave relationship.  This conflation suggests that sovereignty (zhuquan, lit. master’s right), both ‘national sovereignty’ in relation to the margin of the state, and ‘ethnic sovereignty’ in relation to other groups within an autonomous area, imply conquest and counter-conquest.

Seminar – 28 February – Charles Kennel

February 24th, 2017 by anna.c

This year MIASU is hosting the Climate Histories Group events which cover environmental issues of both global and regional interest.

It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to the new seminar series from the Climate Histories Group, following-on from our many years at CRASSH. We are delighted to welcome back for our first seminar Charlie Kennel: Visiting Research Fellow, Centre for Science and Policy, Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Christ’s College, and Director Emeritus, Vice-Chancellor, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

He will present a talk as part of our series on current political and scientific debates on climate change entitled: “Climate – The Enigma Wrapped Inside a Mystery”

This will include discussion from Hildegard Diemberger (Social Anthropology, MIASU) and Richard Fraser (MIASU).


Tuesday 28 February 2017

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Charlie Kennel

University of California

Climate – The Enigma Wrapped Inside a Mystery

Lunchtime Seminar – 22 February – Telo Tulku Rinpoche, the Shajin (Supreme) Lama of Kalmykia

February 13th, 2017 by anna.c

A lunchtime seminar will be held in the Mond Building Seminar Room, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RF

Wednesday 22 February 2017, 12.30–1.30

All welcome

Telo Tulku Rinpoche

The Shajin (Supreme) Lama of Kalmykia

The Revival of Buddhism in Russia

Telo Tulku Rinpoche (secular name Erdne Ombadykow) is the Buddhist spiritual leader of the Kalmyks. Born in 1972 in Philadelphia, US, into a Kalmyk immigrant family, at the age of seven he was sent to study Buddhism at the Drepung Gomang monastery in South India. In 1992 he was invited to the Republic of Kalmykia, south-west Russia, to become the Shajin (Supreme) Lama of the Kalmyk people, a position he occupies to this day.

Known as ‘the only Buddhist nation in Europe’, the Kalmyks are a people of Oirat-Mongol origin who settled in the territory of today’s Kalmykia in the Lower Volga region at the beginning of the 17th century after a long migration from Dzungaria (today corresponding to the northern half of China’s Xinjiang region, the western part of Mongolia, and eastern Kazakhstan). In 1771 with the increasing oppression of the tsarist government more than half of the Kalmyk population returned to their homeland in Dzungaria, an event which constitutes the last long-distance nomadic migration in world history. Those who remained in the Volga region were drafted by the Russian government to fight various wars of conquest, and were exiled to Siberia and Central Asia in toto from 1943 to 1957 charged with the crime of betraying the Soviet motherland. With Buddhism banned and Kalmyk culture devalued during the Soviet period, Kalmyks forgot many aspects of their culture and language. One aspect of Kalmyk culture that has revived since the end of the Soviet Union is Buddhism, in which the role of the Shajin Lama is of paramount importance.

Link to poster here