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SAN4f: Inner Asia

Inner Asia is the region of the great steppes lying between Russia and China, and it includes the contemporary countries and regions of Mongolia; Buryatia, Tyva and Altai in Russia; and Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai and Tibet in China.  Politically divided and now subject to a variety of regimes (from 'communist' to 'democratic'), the region has a great deal in common in terms of culture, religion and economy, and this combination makes for interesting possibilities for comparative analysis.  The area has only recently been accessible for anthropological research, however, and until recently studies were dominated by text-based history and 'oriental studies'. 

This paper seeks to combine insights from the longue durée of history (eg studies of state formations of the peoples of the steppe, the influence of the Mongol Empire on Russian and Chinese society, the spread of Tibetan Buddhism, the relation between the religions of the region and governmental forms;  the character of 'socialism' as it took form in this region) with the exciting new anthropological research now being carried out.  The latter includes studies of new forms of shamanism and Buddhism practised today;  environment and land-use; memory and re-interpretations of history;  notions of 'centre' and 'periphery';  the politics of representation of 'ethnic minorities';  20th century migration, flight and displacement;  urbanism;  and the relation between poverty and shifting notions of gender and work.  Inner Asia has been a region founded economically on mobile pastoralism and courses discuss indigenous perspectives on movement, direction, time-reckoning, and spatiality.

Further information including a list of lecture courses and background reading can be found in the Paper Guide in the Paper Resources section to the right of this page.

Paper Resources


For lecture reading lists, additional teaching materials, past exam questions and exam reports for all ethnographic areas please see the SAN4 Moodle Course.

Please note teaching staff and students enrolled on SAN4 will automatically be enrolled on the SAN4 Moodle course and you will find a link to the course in the ‘My Home’ section of Moodle.

If you are a member of the University of Cambridge and you wish to view the reading lists, past exam questions and exam reports then you can access the SAN4 Moodle Course as a guest. For more information on how to access Moodle Courses as a guest please see Moodle Help.