Research Projects

Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project
PI: Dr Uradyn Bulag (MIASU/Social Anthropology)
Researchers: Baasanjav Terbish (MIASU), Elvira Churyumova (MIASU)

A project funded by Arcadia.

The aim of this project is to audio-video document Kalmyk culture in the broadest sense and to produce a comprehensive database on the endangered cultural heritage of the Kalmyks. This knowledge, deposited in open-access digital archives, will provide Kalmyk communities with a resource that they can draw upon to compare, revive and popularise their endangered culture in the future.

Pathways to understanding the changing climate: time and place in cultural learning about the environment


PI: Professor David Sneath (MIASU/Social Anthropology)
Co-I: Dr David Whitley (Faculty of Education)
Researchers: Richard Irvine (Social Anthropology), Barbara Bodenhorn (Social Anthropology), Elsa Lee (Faculty of Education), Jonathan Woolley (PhD student, Social Anthropology)

An AHRC funded project developing both a valuable record of environmental perceptions and a method to record and explore in innovative and creative ways the lived experience of environmental change. This will be an important step towards placing the experience of communities at the heart of policy, education and current debates on climate change, including schools and schoolchildren in this process.

Where Rising Powers Meet: China and Russia At Their North Asian Border (ESRC funded)
North Asian Borders Network
PI: Professor Caroline Humphrey with Dr Franck Billé and Dr Sayana Namsaraeva

An ESRC funded network project focusing on the border area of China, Russia and Mongolia.
As ‘rising powers’, China and Russia often attract attention, but their interactions with one another, and comparisons between them, are less understood. Yet the two powers share thousands of miles of border, with the country of independent Mongolia lodged in-between in the central part of the long frontier. This is a project from social anthropology, with multi-disciplinary links, aiming to establish an online network and organise events that will for the first time bring together international discussion on the theme of the border economies of the three countries.

Over the last decade world attention has focused on Russia and China as two of the world’s four rising economies (BRICs), but there has been little focus on their interface. Furthermore, in the studies that have been done analyses have rarely extended beyond the disciplines of economics, history and political science. They have largely focused on state policies and changes at macro-level and have paid little attention to the myriad social transformations now taking place within and between these two multi-ethnic societies. Yet, since the demise of Soviet socialism in 1991 and especially in the last decade, the line of contact has become a site of rapid transformations and ever widening contrasts between the two countries. The ‘twin-cities’, notably Manzhouli/Zabaikalsk, Heihe/Blagoveshchensk and Suifenhe/Ussuriisk, that have mushroomed along the border are assuming utterly different characters. Meanwhile, the extraction of strategic resources (mining in particular) is attracting global economic interests, overturning traditional occupations, and drawing in new populations.

Transforming Technologies and Buddhist Book Culture: the Introduction of Printing and Digital Text Reproduction in Buddhist Societies
PI: Dr Uradyn Bulag with Dr Hildegard Diemberger

AN AHRC funded project exploring the relationship between Buddhist culture and technological transformations by looking at ‘the book’ as artifact, medium for communication, symbol of political authority and ritual object in the context of Tibetan Buddhism.

The project of civilization in Liangshan, Southwest-China (1923–1949)

A British Academy/ESRC Chinese Visiting Fellowship has been awarded for a visit by Dr Aga Zuoshi, September–December 2008, supervised by Dr Uradyn Bulag.

The death of the Buddhist state: violence and sovereignty in early socialist Mongolia

A British Academy small research grant awarded to Dr Christopher Kaplonski in support of his research on the emerging socialist government’s attempts to deal with the politically powerful Buddhist establishment in early socialist Mongolia. The grant chiefly supports work in the National Central Archives and the archives of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Black Sea Currents

Professor Caroline Humphrey with Dr Yael Navaro-Yashin and Dr Vera Skvirskaya have been funded by the Migration and Diasporas Programme of the AHRC for a 3-year study entitled ‘Black Sea Currents’ This project aims at comparative analysis of the cosmopolitan dynamics and migration flows of two great Black Sea port cities – Odessa, Ukraine and Istanbul, Turkey – focusing on old and new diasporic subjectivities and identities. Historically it will investigate urban coexistence in the authoritarian Tsarist/Soviet and Ottoman states and the effects of the Cold War and its aftermath. Contemporary research will investigate the residues and memories of these periods, as well as current flows of diverse migrants between the two cities. What is the impact – in particular the cultural impact – of these sporadic, yet repeated, travels across the Black Sea, which until recently seemed to divide the region into different worlds, “European”/”Asian”, “Communist”/”non-Communist”, and “Christian”/”Muslim”?

The Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia

A co-operative research project between the MIASU and the International Association for Mongol Studies in Ulaanbaatar. The Principal Investigator was Professor David Sneath and the project was managed by Dr Christopher Kaplonski. with Professor Caroline Humphrey (Department of Social Anthropology, Cambridge)  as senior consultant. The project collected over 600 personal oral histories from Mongolians throughout the country to create a publicly accessible, dual-language database of the oral history of twentieth-century Mongolia. The aim is to create a new understanding of individuals’ memories and experiences of state transformation and to document and analyze the remarkable changes that this huge but remote country has experienced. This project will help preserve Mongolian cultural and historical heritage and further develop collaborative anthropological and historical research projects between Mongolia and the UK.

The Historical Study and Documentation of the Pad gling traditions in Bhutan

Dr Stephen Hugh-Jones and Dr Hildegard Diemberger have been awarded funds for a
5-year project with Dr Karma Phuntso as the researcher, which will study the Pad gling Traditon, one of the two major religious traditions in the Kingdom of Bhutan. The project aims to assess the religious, cultural and political role of the institution and its members in Bhutanese history and in the greater Tibetan Buddhist world. The literature connected with the tradition will be digitized, the original manuscripts and wood block prints will be preserved and deposited in local archives and the British Library and the entire textual corpus will be entered into a complete xml catalogue.

A Tibetan Woman-Lama and her Reincarnations: a Study of the Samding Dorje Phagmo

Funded by the AHRC, this project is directed by Professor Caroline Humphrey in collaboration with Professor David Sneath (MIASU) and Burkhard Quessel (British Library), and the principal investigator is Dr Hildegard Diemberger.

The Treasures of Danzan Ravjaa

Funded by The British Library Endangered Archives Programme and the Axis Mundi Foundation, Switzerland, the project aims to preserve a significant aspect of Mongolia’s historical and religious patrimony by digitally scanning and producing a catalogue of a rare, privately-owned cache of Mongolian manuscripts recently unearthed from caves near Sainshand, Dorngobi Province, Mongolia. Co-ordinated by Dr Hildegard Diemberger.

Sacred Sites in Inner Mongolia-Spatial and Landscape Concepts

This project, funded by the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research (Cambridge) is now entering its fifth year. The project is directed by Professor Caroline Humphrey with researchers Hürelbaatar (MIASU), Dr Nasanbayar (Inner Mongolia University), Mönxbuyan (Inner Mongolia Normal University) and Gai Zhe-yi (Institute of Agricultural Development, Huhhot, Inner Mongolia). Dr James Laidlaw joined the project in 2002 and a third period of fieldwork at Mergen Monastery, Inner Mongolia, was carried out by the team during summer 2002. The projects findings  have been summarised in two annual reports, which are available on request. A book is in preparation.

Political language in democratic Mongolia

A project launched in 2002 by Profesor Caroline Humphrey, who received funding for it from The Sigrid Rausing Trust and the Isaac Newton Trust. Dr Hürelbaatar will be working on this project with Professor Humphrey over the next three years. An article by Professor Humphrey and Hürelbaatar on ‘The evolution of the idea of ‘Törü’ was presented at the 2004 International Symposium on Inner Asian Statecraft and Technologies of Governance.

Tibetan-Mongolian Rare Books and Manuscripts Project

This is a three-year project funded by the AHRB and co-ordinated by Dr Hildegard Diemberger for the cataloguing, microfilming and digitising of Tibetan and Mongolian texts available at Cambridge, Oxford and The British Library – primarily the Waddel/Younghusband collection.

Tradition and Modernity in Tibet and the Himlayas

This is an international co-operative project led by Dr Hildegard Diemberger, involving Oxford University, The Austrian Academy of Sciences, The Tibetan Academy of Sciences, The Italian Ev-K2-CNR Committee, the French CNRS and Columbia University in New York.

Cadres & Discourse in late Socialism: The USSR, Mongolia & China

A ‘Networks’ Grant awarded by the British Academy, supported by The Weatherhead East Asian Institute, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University in New York and CRASSH, The Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities in Cambridge. The co-ordinator for the Cambridge participants and the event is Dr Hildegard Diemberger.