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Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit



Tuesday 3 November

4.30–6.00 ZOOM

Ayur Zhanaev

University of Warsaw

Born in the Body of Beasts: Animals and the Social Order in the Didactic Buddhist Literature of Buryat-Mongols (19th - beg. 20th century)

This presentation engages with current discussions concerning the ways in which human cultures construct the sphere labeled as "social" against that of the broadly defined environment. I contribute to these discussions with an analysis of the didactic Buddhist literature of Buryat-Mongols (19th - beg. 20th century), focusing on the image of non-human animals and their position in the social/universal order. With the emergence of environmentalist trends in the humanities, pre-modern/"non-Western" inter-species relationships have often served as counter-alternatives to the problematic "Western" nature-culture dichotomy. While expecting to see the human being described as a part of "nature" in the analysed texts, I found a different picture: the anthropocentric social sphere is clearly distinguished from animals, and in some fragments the idioms used with regard to animals are reminiscent of European evolutionist discourse. Though an exhaustive analysis of Buryat attitudes towards animals is beyond the scope of this study, the didactic literature gives insight into a particular cultural discourse as represented in reputed sources of the period.

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Tuesday, 3 November, 2020 - 16:30 to 18:00