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Abstract

The groups known as tsho-ba in Tibetan are both historically and ethnographically significant for their central role in local social organisation across large stretches of the eastern Himalayan Plateau. Available scholarly descriptions, however, remain both terse and discrepant. To remedy this situation, this article presents a diachronic picture of these groups in the Reb-gong region of eastern Qinghai, People’s Republic of China. Its analysis highlights an important historical shift in the constitution of these units, which often seem to have arisen as individual hamlets yet shed their territorialised identities over time. These findings, as a comparative discussion illustrates, markedly benefit our cross-regional understanding of tsho-ba, which in turn yields an instructive etymology of the term tsho-ba itself. Lastly, the paper addresses the forwarded historical hypothesis that these groups are the remnants of an older but now defunct clan system—a notion it argues must be rejected.

In: Inner Asia

Abstract

This article investigates how a number of Buddhist groups in Kalmykia, a republic in the southwest of Russia where Buddhism is historically practised by most of its titular population, try to create what they perceive as elements of the local form of Buddhism. Based on interviews with non-monastic Buddhist specialists, the article focuses on the introduction of the worship of two protective deities in several Kalmyk Buddhist centres. Central to the discussion is the deployment of the Tibetan practice of ‘treasure’ discoveries in this renewal.

In: Inner Asia
In: Inner Asia

Abstract

In contemporary Mongolia—a country with 29 years’ history of international development policy—the conventional interpretation regarding the oppression of and liberation from the Soviet regime is no longer valid for understanding its politics of cultural heritage. Today, development projects and associated environmental, social and cultural assessments play a central role in safeguarding cultural heritage. Therefore, alternative interpretations are necessary to comprehend current and further processes of cultural heritage politics. This paper introduces two case studies of new cultural heritage politics involving Mongolia’s two ‘megaprojects’: Oyu Tolgoi gold and copper mining, and River Eg hydroelectric station.

In: Inner Asia

The results of a survey of journalists in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan (N=211) demonstrate that they primarily see their societal role as being to mobilize people with common interests and provide objective analysis. The media’s traditional role as a watchdog, meanwhile, was rated least important by journalists in the country, which is widely considered the “most democratic” in Central Asia. The study also found that the majority described themselves as being “neither satisfied nor dissatisfied” professionally, a feeling directly impacted by their income, sense of autonomy, and supervisor’s perceived ability. Low salary, disagreement with editorial policy, and excessive pressure were found to be the leading reasons that Kyrgyz journalists left the profession. This research extends previous knowledge of journalists’ job satisfaction by examining the often-overlooked region of Central Asia. The surveys were conducted between April 29 and May 19, 2016, primarily in the Russian and Kyrgyz languages.

In: Central Asian Affairs

Previous studies on informal exchanges in the health care sector in post-socialist states have extensively discussed their complex and diverse nature, in particular the difficulty in distinguishing between gratuities and bribes given to health care providers. In examining this in Kazakhstan, I argue that the ongoing privatization of health care has blurred the boundary between official user fees and informal payments given as a reward for quality care. This has, in turn, sharpened the contrast between informal payments given in the expectation of proper treatment and money extorted by health practitioners. This paper also demonstrates that ordinary people often circumvent formal procedures by using money to obtain services to which they are not officially entitled or to gain access to public medical funding.

In: Central Asian Affairs

Iran’s state identity is frequently described as Islamist, Shia, and anti-imperialist when discussing its behavior in the Middle East, but as pragmatic and even non-ideological in its approach to Central Asia. By parsing Iranian officials' speeches and purpose-written schoolbooks for ideology, this article documents the multiple identities that cultural diplomats present in Tajikistan and the functions they perform, including propagating normative Iranian identity among Iranian expats, lobbying Tajik officials, and influencing Tajik citizens. In contrast to the Middle East, Iranian cultural diplomacy in Tajikistan prioritizes a Persian identity as the basis for economic, scientific, cultural, and political integration in the region. Moreover, this identity is being discursively securitized as a strategic asset and an answer to threats from Salafism and globalization.

In: Central Asian Affairs

Abstract

After the 1861 coup that brought her to power, Empress Dowager Cixi mobilized a variety of traditions of imperial education to cultivate the persona of a classical ruler and cement her place at the center of Qing governance. At the turn of the twentieth century, however, her enemies launched a propaganda campaign that portrayed Cixi not as a legitimate ruler but as the enemy of progress. In response, Cixi herself began a project to refashion the Qing throne, placing new institutions of imperial education for women at the center of efforts to reestablish her domestic authority and reclaim the Qing’s international standing. After reviewing Cixi’s strategies of legitimation from 1861 to 1898, this paper focuses on the Empress’s twentieth-century attempt to construct an educational apparatus to invent and train a group of female nobles who were intended to play a leading role in reforms around the country. In advocating for the role of these women and institutions, Cixi placed herself and a cosmopolitan cohort of women at the center of plans for China’s future. This future was predicated on a refashioned Qing imperial ideology that grounded the legitimacy of the state in part in its participation in global norms and practices of governance. Although the future Cixi imagined for herself and the Qing never materialized, an examination of the project helps shed new light on the politics and culture of the late Qing and beyond.

In: NAN NÜ