Seminar 11 March – Christopher Atwood

March 6th, 2014 by

Mond Building Seminar Room

4:30–6:00

All welcome

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Christopher Atwood

Indiana University

Imperial Nomadism and Mobile Pastoralism: The State and Mobility in Medieval Inner Asia

Historians of Inner Asia have often stressed the ecological constraints imposed by the environment on nomadic polities. These ecological constraints have been seen as demanding dispersal of population and seasonal migrations governed tightly by the imperative of maximizing livestock productivity. Recently, however, advances in historical geography and textual research have allowed a number of itineraries of leaders in nomadic empires to be traced. The resulting picture is, however, not one of ecological constraint, but rather elite-level Inner Asian nomadism as a political strategy, sharing technology with the mobile pastoralism of herders, but governed by fundamentally different aims. Indeed as James Scott has argued with the Southeast Asian state, it is likely that this imperial nomadism routinely sacrificed pastoral efficiency for the needs of controlling people and capturing resources.


Christopher P. Atwood is an associate professor of Mongolian studies at Indiana University, where he teaches on the Mongol world empire, modern Mongolia, Sino-Mongolian relations, and the social and intellectual history of the Mongolian plateau. He is currently preparing a critical edition of the Chinese text of the Record of the Campaigns of Chinggis Khan, with full textual, source-critical, philological, and historical commentary. Other areas of current interest include the development of imperial historiographies, the social history of Mongolian mobile pastoralism, and the Mongol empire and the “early modern” question. His publications include, Young Mongols and Vigilantes in Inner Mongolia’s Interregnum Decades and the Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire.