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Department of Social Anthropology

Mongolia (credit: David Sneath)

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. While the region was characterized by remoteness and peripherality for much of the twentieth century, it is now gaining a new prominence in the age of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Its fragile ecologies are also central to discussions surrounding anthropogenic environmental change.  

This paper seeks to combine insights from the longue durée of history (e.g. comparative studies of imperial formations; the relation between the religions of the region and governmental forms; the character of 'socialism' and ‘postsocialism’ in this region) with exciting new anthropological research now being carried out. The latter includes studies of new forms of shamanism and healing practices; environment, land-use and ideas of nature; infrastructure and spatial transformation; borders; Islam, Buddhism, and the politics of representation of ‘ethnic minorities’; 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

SAN4f: Inner Asia Paper Guide

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.