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China's inner Asian borderlands: what do they reveal about the relations between the two countries?

6 May 2021 17.00 - 18.30
Add to Calendar06/05/2021 17:0006/05/2021 18:30Europe/LondonChina's inner Asian borderlands: what do they reveal about the relations between the two countries? seminarfalseDD/MM/YYYY15Jesus Collegeevent_11004confirmed
Virtual seminar

Professor Dame Caroline Humphrey, Founder & Research Director, MIASU (Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit), and Sigrid Rausing Professor of Collaborative Anthropology (Emeritus), University of Cambridge, will deliver a lecture on China's inner Asian borderlands. The lecture will be followed by a question and answer session.

The seminar will first describe the main planks of the China – Russia ‘strategic partnership’. This is currently strengthening in the areas of military, political and economic affairs. But the balance is very unequal, and Russia’s military strength cannot be a counterweight to China’s overwhelming economic clout. Behind the smiles and bland communiqués, many Russians look on China’s overtures into Central Asia, her economic ventures in Siberia, and her blanket tightening of political discipline at home with alarm and perplexity. The two cultures remain utterly different.

This seminar, which takes an anthropological perspective, will go on to suggest that the situation along the 2,000 mile border between the two countries is symptomatic of a factually tense relationship. It will discuss a range of examples, including border security, potential land claims, transport infrastructure, and joint economic enterprises.

Finally, there will be a comparison of the treatment, situation, and ventures to make contact with one another, of the indigenous peoples who inhabit both sides of the border. This is one (of several) subject(s) where the borderlands reveal a disjunct between people on the ground and the state projects and ideologies. 

Professor Dame Caroline Humphrey, FBA, is an anthropologist who has worked in Russia, Mongolia, China (Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang), India, Nepal and Ukraine. She has researched a wide range of themes including Soviet and post-Soviet provincial economy and society; Buryat and Daur shamanism; Jain religion and ritual; trade and barter in Nepal; environment and the pastoral economy in Mongolia; and the history and contemporary situation of Buddhism, especially in Inner Mongolia. She has written on inequality and exclusion; the politics of memory; naming practices; ethics and conceptions of freedom. Recent research has concerned urban transformations in post-Socialist cities (Buryatia; Uzbekistan, Ukraine). Currently she is developing a research project on socio-political interactions on the Russian–Mongolian–Chinese border.

Caroline Humphrey's PhD (1973) from the University of Cambridge was on 'Magical Drawings in the Religions of the Buryats', supervised by Edmund Leach. Since 1978 she has held appointments in the Department of Social Anthropology (Cambridge). Together with Urgunge Onon she founded the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit (MIASU) in 1986. She retired from her post as Sigrid Rausing Professor of Collaborative Anthropology, University of Cambridge in October 2010 and became Director of MIASU.

This is one of the lectures in the on-going China Centre Seminar series, hosted by the China Centre, Jesus College. The lectures, given by eminent speakers, cover a broad range of topics and disciplines.


This is a virtual seminar. Attendance is free. Advance booking is required by emailing:  Priority will be given to members of Jesus College and the University of Cambridge. 


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