Versions of the Kyrgyz epos Manas have been collected and studied for over a hundred and sixty years. Reasons for this research have varied. Foreign scholars collected the first variants of stories connected to the legendary hero Manas and his descendents for linguistic purposes in the mid-nineteenth century.[i] As a Tsarist expedition made the first sound recording of a performance, connoisseurship of written variants appeared with an emerging class of Kyrgyz literati.[ii] Nationalistic interests of these local intellectuals, and the Soviet focus on folklore, coincided with the aim to produce a complete narrative. Post second world war political concerns led to the publication of a harmonized epic, with features deemed problematic removed.[iii] Throughout these periods, the extinction of the living oral tradition has frequently been predicted. In post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan (1991-), the resurgence of oral performances has been met with the frequent claim that ‘true manaschis’ (chïnïgï Manaschïlar), performers of the Manas epos capable of the traditional oral improvising, have been replaced by ‘manaschis by the book’ (jattama Manaschïlar), those who merely memorize a printed version.[iv] Wishing to examine this issue, in Fall 2017 a group of researchers connected to the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, responded to my initiative to collect and study new variants of the Manas epos.
In the spring of 2013 a private workshop was organized by a major international donor for its Tajikistani state and NGO partner organizations in Dushanbe. The event was part of the reporting process related to a large labour migration program being implemented by three large international development agencies. I attended this event as a part of fieldwork on the bureaucracy of migration management I conducted between 2012-2014.
Gendering a Tourist Economy
Ölgii, the capital city of Bayan-Ölgii Province, is a small city that one can stroll all over in just an afternoon. Since falconry’s title of cultural heritage was affirmed by UNESCO, the concept of heritage has been widely accepted by locals. Just as falconry became a vital connection to the Kazakh historical past, natural environment, and traditional culture across Eurasia, handicrafts have also allowed Kazakhs to maintain their identity and traditional knowledge as an ethnic minority in Mongolia, and have become an attribute of “authentic” Kazakhness. While Kazakh men take up the iconic image and profit from falconry as part of ethnic tourism and international spectacle, women have quietly become the backbone of a local informal economy, clearly represented by traditional handicraft production. Continue reading The Afterlives of Yurt Wall-hangings: Tus Kiiz by Guldana Salimjan, University of British Columbia
In this article, I explore the emergence of two heads of Mongolian Buddhism: first, Hamba Lama (Abbot) of Gandantegchenling monastery, a religious authority created during the socialist period, and second, the late Ninth Jebtsundamba Khutugtu (1932-2012), whose previous reincarnation pre-dated the socialist religious authority in Mongolia. Continue reading Double Headed Mongolian Buddhism, by Lhagvademchig J Shastri (Visiting researcher, University of Shiga)
If you are reading this blog in your office or at home, look around you. It is probable that you are surrounded by a myriad of objects of everyday use imported from China, even if the production process of the products themselves has been completed outside of China: pens, ink, memory sticks, mouse pads, brush and dustpan, safety pins, spoons, handbag, umbrella, the foil paper in your kitchen, your socks, your clothes’ buttons, zipper or bra’s underwire – and the list goes on. How were these items sourced? Who was responsible from bringing them to the shop where you finally purchased them? What type of exchanges, transactions, mobilities and circulations of people, knowledge, money, value, goods, ideas and emotions have been implicated in the trajectories of such goods? Continue reading Yiwu and Transnational Traders: Intersections along Eurasia, Central, South and West Asia, by Diana Ibañez Tirado (University of Sussex)