Seminar – 23 April – Sayana Namsaraeva

April 17th, 2013 by

Mond Building Seminar Room 4.30–6.00

Tuesday 23rd April

Sayana Namsaraeva

MIASU

Fieldwork between Folders: fragments of the Russian ‘amateur’ colonial anthropology in the China-Russia border town archives

Abstract

This presentation looks at the imperial period engagement of the Russian frontier town Kyakhta and its residents with Mongolia and China. Exploring the role of the local ‘amateur’ ethnographers who established in Kyakhta their own ‘Anthropological Society’ under the umbrella of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society (IRGO), and taking a close look at their underappreciated research of the border region and particularly ‘native life’ in Chinese Maimaicheng – trade outpost on the other side of the border, I demonstrate that this unique local school of Oriental studies was borne out of conflicting ideas and sentiment about Russia’s colonizing ‘mission’ in Asia, statehood, and ‘the bitter destiny’ of colonial officials (in their opinion) who were sent from Moscow and Saint Petersburg to serve the remote Asian border. As a conclusion, I link the intellectual work of the diverse Kyakhta society, which comprised of various civil and military border officials, penal intellectuals, housewives with university diplomas, half-literate caravan trade merchants and western ‘expats’, and their contradictive academic contribution which is fragmentary preserved in local archives, with what became known in the late nineteenth-century as Russian Orientalism.