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Graduate Student Brown Bag Talks

Graduate Student Brown Bag Talks

In the Fall and Spring semesters, the IAUNRC organized and hosted the new Graduate Student Brown Bag Talks. These talks were given by graduate student that study the region, who will be discussing their research methods, recent work, and experiences. This is an excellent opportunity to interact with fellow students outside of class, receive feedback in an environment that is less formal than a conference, and learn from the experiences from other graduate students. Students from all departments are invited to attend.

Join us to discuss the speaker’s current work, research, and field experiences.

Below are the speakers and abstracts of the speakers in the Spring semester. You can fine information about the Fall's semester's talks here.

If you are a graduate student and you are interested in presenting at the talks in future semesters, please contact the Center.

Miriam J. Woods, a graduate student in the Central Eurasian Studies and Folklore and Ethnomusicology Departments, discussed her work on "Tajik Women’s National Clothing: Aspects of Fieldworking in Tajikistan" on February 12th, from noon to one in the Distinguished  Alumni Room in the IMU.

"My research is on women’s “national clothing” (libosi milli) in Tajikistan, focusing particularly on its makers and wearers. I examine how women who create this clothing synthesize religious values, national identity, fashion, aesthetics, and creativity in producing unique custom-made garments. I suggest that these women, whose work is often granted a low social value by Tajik cultural elites, are not unskilled workers but in many cases talented artists whose skills and expertise have not been sufficiently recognized. My talk will give an overview of my research topic, my fieldwork thus far, and further work I hope to conduct for my dissertation."

Alissa Davis, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, discussed her work on "Barriers to Health Care Utilization and HIV/Syphilis Testing Among Female Uyghur Migrant Workers in Guangzhou, China" on February 17th, from noon to one in Redbud Room in the IMU.

“My proposed dissertation research will examine social, cultural, and institutional barriers to health care utilization and the acceptability and feasibility of using HIV and syphilis rapid point-of-care tests among this population. Research has not yet been conducted, so this talk will focus on background, proposed study design and hypotheses.”

Michael Hancock-Parmer, a Ph.D. student in the Central Eurasian Studies and History Departments, discussed his work on "The Bare Footed Flight and Some Specific Examples from Soviet (Russian-language) Historiography" on February 25th, from noon to one in Ballantine Hall 004.

"My research looks specifically at the expression of the Bare Footed Flight (ak taban shubyryndy) in the historiography of Kazakhstan. In this short talk, we'll look at examples from three of the state-sponsored Histories of the Kazakh SSR (Istoriia Kazakhskoi SSR), specifically from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1970s. We'll consider their use, or misuse, of the sources and their predecessor histories, and attempt to draw some conclusions, or at the least make some conjectures regarding the influence of policy on identity, history, and the expression of "Kazakh" history in the Soviet Union."


Eveline Yang,  a Ph.D. student in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies and the Department of Anthropology, discussed her work on "The Limits of Amdo in History and Ethnography: Approaches to Identifying the “White Chinese Stupa” (Tib. Rgya mchod rten dkar po)" on March 3rd, from 12:30-1:30 at the Distinguished Alumni Room in the IMU.

"My pre-dissertation fieldwork in eastern Tibet traced some possible locations of the “White Chinese Stupa” (Tib. Rgya mchod rten dkar po) mentioned in a 15th century Tibetan text. This talk will focus on various questions raised from the historical record and my preliminary attempts to use ethnographic approaches to investigate historical knowledge."


Tekla Schmaus,  a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Anthropology with a Central Eurasian Studies Minor, discussed her work on "Sheep teeth and society: Archaeology in Semirech’ye, Kazakhstan" on March 10th, from noon to one at the Distinguished Alumni Room in the IMU.

"My research focuses on the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age in what is now southeast Kazakhstan (Semirech’ye).  This period was marked by an increase in social stratification, and also by apparent agricultural intensification.  I use faunal remains as a proxy for human presence in order to understand people’s changing relationships with the environment during a period of social change.  I will present some preliminary findings, and discuss some of the ways my project has evolved, and where it’s headed next."

Amita Vempati, a MA/MPA student in Central Eurasian Studies and School of Public Enviornmental Affairs, gave a talk entitled "It's Not Fieldwork, It's The Field" on Thursday March 13th, from 11:30 to 12:30 at Ballantine Hall 004.

"As budding scholars in regional studies, it is important to note the ways we contextualize our research at home and abroad. Fieldwork is often conducted with an agenda, which, granted, is especially important in later stages of research. But this approach to studying abroad highly underemphasizes the value of working and exploring a culture outside of said agenda. In this talk, I compare my research foci from before and after my time directing summer camps in Tajikistan. Ultimately, I hope to not only present some outlines on my research in post-Soviet identity politics but also reasons why we as academics should actively seek non-academic opportunities to explore our regions of interest."


Brian Cwiek, a Ph.D. Candidate in the Departments of Central Eurasian Studies and History, gave a talk entitled “Excavating Turpan: An Archaeology of Xinjiang's Oasis Heritage.”

"Famous for sweet grapes, an arid climate, and archaeological wonders, Turpan looms large on the itineraries of many travelers to Xinjiang seeking to experience the historical Silk Road. I will offer some tentative thoughts on the significance of the People's Republic of China's ongoing efforts to inscribe several sites in the Turpan area on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a crucial component of the Chinese Section of the Silk Road. In addition to promoting Xinjiang's tourism sector and enhancing the PRC's image as an avid promoter of cultural heritage, I suggest these recent efforts to manage Turpan's cultural resources should be understood in the context of the development of archaeology as a form of disciplinary knowledge in modern China."

Jonathan North Washington, a Ph.D. Candidate in the Departments of Central Eurasian Studies and Linguistics, gave a talk entitled “The role of tongue position in the production of vowels in Central Eurasian languages” on Wednesday, April 9th at noon in Ballantine Hall 004.

"This talk explores various issues surrounding the study of tongue position in the production of vowels in Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic languages.  These phenomena are interesting for a variety of phonetic, phonological, typological, and even geographic and historical reasons, and the current state of knowledge leaves many questions open.  My main questions and the methods being developed to approach them will be addressed."

Leone Musgrave, a PhD candidate in the Department of History gave a talk entitled "Brothers in Need and Injustice: Sub- and Supranationalisms in the North Caucasus  during the Breakup of the Romanov Empire" on Wednesday, April 16th at noon in Ballantine Hall 004.

"Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, autonomist, separatist, and Islamist movements have emerged in the North Caucasus to either unite many of the area's linguistic groups into one Caucasian whole, or to establish new, linguistically particular nation states. Could North Caucasian politics after 1991 have been predicted based on Caucasians' political choices after the breakdown of Russian metropolitan power in 1917? Examining events and political discourse from Ossetia, Chechnia, and Dagestan in the years during and immediately following the Russian revolutions, this presentation recreates the subnational and supranational affinities that motivated North Caucasian political speech in the early 20th c. I argue that ethno-linguistic nationalism as it is most commonly understood today did not exist in the area at the time, but that Caucasian peoples nonetheless mobilized family, clan, and tribal systems, as well as socialist and Islamist ideologies against Russian and Soviet colonialism. Those campaigns embraced autonomist, separatist, and Islamist movements similar to those seen in the later 20th and early 21st century movements, but via more peaceful and political methods than those for which the Caucasus is most commonly known today."

Sandrine Catris, a Ph.D candidate in the Department of History gave a talk entitled "Recovering History from Fragments: The Cultural Revolution in Xinjiang" on Wednesday, April 23rd at noon in Ballantine Hall 004.

"In this talk, I will discuss the challenges of doing research in Xinjiang, particularly the problem of the archives and of primary sources. Then, I will give an overview of my research project, which investigates the cultural and social history of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (CR), (1966-1976) as it played out in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. I contribute to the scholarship of the Cultural Revolution that suggests that we should understand the Chinese Cultural Revolution not as one monolithic countrywide revolution, but as an amalgam of regional Cultural Revolutions. I contend that understanding what happened on the edge of  “China” during that decade offers a new window through which we can view this political movement and its multiple faces, at once Maoist and Imperialist."

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Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center