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Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit


Current and recent projects

Where Empires Meet, the border economies of Russia, China and Mongolia

An ESRC network project. 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. A workshop was held in November 2010. Project website

Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia

Professor Caroline Humphrey is senior consultant on this large AHRC funded co-operative research project between the MIASU and the National University of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar. The Principal Investigator is Dr David Sneath and the project is managed by Dr Christopher Kaplonski. The project has collected almost 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 historial research projects between Mongolia and the UK.

Black Sea Currents

A recently completed project. Professor Caroline Humphrey with Dr Yael Navaro-Yashin and Dr Vera Skvirskaya were funded by the Migration and Diasporas Programme of the AHRC for a 3-year study entitled ‘Black Sea Currents’, a 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 investigated urban coexistence in the authoritarian Tsarist/Soviet and Ottoman states and the effects of the Cold War and its aftermath. It involved contemporary research on the residues and memories of these periods, as well as current flows of diverse migrants between the two cities and considered 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”

A tibetan woman-lama and her reincarnations: a study of the samding dorje phagmo (15th–21st Century)

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

Mergen Süme, a Buddhist Monastery in Inner Mongolia

This research by Professor Caroline Humphrey and Dr Hurelbaatar Ujeed was funded by the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research (Cambridge), the British Academy and MIASU. This a long-term project has studied the history, social organization, liturgy, and modes of transmission of the unique Mongolian language Buddhist chanting tradition of Mergen Monastery, involving over ten years of field visits, translation of texts, and surveys of the surrounding landscape and its sacred sites. Several members of the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit and other scholars assisted in this work, including Dr Nasanbayar (Inner Mongolia University), Dr. Mönxbuyan (Inner Mongolia Normal University) and Gai Zheyi (Institute of Agricultural Development, Huhhot, Inner Mongolia), Dr James Laidlaw (King's College), Dr Balzhan Zhimbiev (MIASU), and Dr Christopher Evans (Cambridge Archaeological Unit). Several articles have been published and a book is submitted for publication.

Professor Caroline Humphrey's Webpage