Silk Roads Programme Events
- The Festival of Gul-i Surkh: A Bactro-Sogdian Cultural Survival along the Silk RoadsFriday
07-10-2022 @ 14:00Platform | Audit Room, King's College ZoomID: Please register on 'join meeting' link Passcode: None
The shrine of ‘Ali b Abi Talib (Shah-i Mardan) in Mazar-I Sharif, northern Afghanistan, is an important centre for the celebration of Nauroz (New Year). At the same time this shrine is the focus for two other consecutive events/festivals: Janda Bala –the raising of a banner-pole said to having miraculous healing powers – and Gul-i Surkh (Red Flower/Rose). The lecture will discuss the historical background to this shrine which claims to be the last resting place of ‘Ali b Abi Talib, through the lens of the Balkh region’s ancient association as a major cult centre in pre-Islamic times. It will then discuss what is known of the customs and traditions of the Gul-i Surkh festival, including accounts of similar ‘red flower’ festivals recorded in the Bukhara and Ferghana regions in the nineteenth to early twentieth century. The lecture will then to suggest the possible origins of the Gul-i Surkh tradition in the ancient religious and cultural traditions of the region, such as the ‘Mourning for Siyawash’, as well as wider influences such as the Armenian Vardavar festival, and Hellenistic and Near Eastern influences. This examination leads to the conclusion that the Bactrian-Sogdian region played an important role in the exchange, interaction and remoulding of religious and cultic traditions along the Silk Road, as well as demonstrating how such ancient traditions were adapted to accommodation the prevailing Islamic ethos.
Dr. Lee is a British-born independent researcher who has spent most of his career working and studying in the area of Afghanistan and Central Asia. He has also worked as a short-term consultant for Aid agencies and Non-Government Organisations. His academic publications include numerous articles on the archaeology, social and religious history of Afghanistan and the Indo-Iranian frontier. He is the author of The Ancient Supremacy: Bukhara, Afghanistan and the Battle for Balkh, 1732-1901 (Brill, Leiden, 1996) and Afghanistan, a History 1260 to the present Day (Reaktion Books, London, 2022). His current project is a History of the Armenian community of Afghanistan to be published by Edinburgh University Press. The present lecture is based on Dr Lee’s unpublished doctoral thesis presented to the Dept, of Religious Studies, University of Leeds. He is now semi-retired and he and his wife currently live in the Greater Auckland area of New Zealand.
- Persian Literary Culture and Book Exchange between Central Asia and Mughal IndiaFriday
14-10-2022 @ 14:00Platform | ZoomID: Please register on 'join meeting' link Passcode: None
India has a rich history of multiple literary cultures which found expression in books written on a wide variety of subjects in many languages and dialects. All books in pre-modern India were manuscripts and those written in Mughal India were mostly in Persian. This presentation is about the culture of writing, collecting and circulating books between Central Asia and Mughal India based on Persian manuscripts and documents as well as published material. The culture of book exchange was driven by politics, literary choices, preservation and dissemination of knowledge, social prestige and control over resources.
Najaf Haider is a professor of Medieval and early Modern History of India at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Haider graduated from Aligarh Muslim University and obtained a doctoral degree from the University of Oxford in Mughal History. He was Samir Shamma Fellow at St. Cross College and visiting professor at the University of Vienna and University of Bonn. Haider is on the editorial board of International Journal of Asian Studies, Cambridge University Press. He has published on monetary economy, communication and conflict, secretarial classes, history of Delhi, and intellectual history of Islam. He is currently working on ‘The Legal Framework of Commercial Transactions in Medieval India’ for the Cambridge History of International Law.
- The Politics of Animal Images in Iron-Age Nomadic Alliances: Case Studies from China to CrimeaFriday
21-10-2022 @ 14:00Platform | ZoomID: Please register on 'join meeting' link Passcode: None
Petya Andreeva is an assistant professor of Asian art and design history at the Parsons School of Art and Design, The New School, New York. This lecture aims to contribute to the flourishing post-humanist discourse in Silk Road and Ancient Studies. The Iron-Age nomadic societies of the Eurasian steppe route produced and circulated metalworks and textiles adorned with images of counterintuitive composites. In nomadic visual rhetoric, animal bodies existed in a perpetual state of flux and at the edge of cognitive chaos, defying taxonomical classifications and biological conventions. The talk will explore how and why nomadic artisans constructed an alternative biota that was filled with fantastic fauna rooted in a distorted version of ecological reality. I will demonstrate that such zoomorphic fabrications were the byproduct of a certain psychology of mobility and the elite’s political aspirations in diverse and often reluctant political alliances. This discussion will view animal-inspired images as viable contributors to the formation of collective memory and situational identity in early pastoral societies. Based on the speaker’s fieldwork, the study will present case studies from tombs and wealth deposits across North China, Mongolia, North Korea, Kazakhstan, South Russia, Crimea, Hungary.
- Late Antique Georgia & the Black Sea RegionFriday
28-10-2022 @ 14:00Platform | Audit Room, King's College & ZoomID: Please register on 'join meeting' link Passcode: None
Ian Colvin is a Byzantinist and Late Roman historian, specialising in the Eastern Frontier and the South Caucasus. He runs a longstanding archaeological dig at Nokalakevi in the Republic of Georgia in partnership with the Georgian National Museum and the University of Winchester. Nokalakevi is a long period site, which corresponds to the Archaeopolis of Late Roman sources and is sometimes also identified as Aia, the capital of King Aeetes’ Colchis during the heroic age, destination of Jason and his Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece. Currently with the Cambridge Schools Classics Project, he has also taught at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Winchester.
Join us to hear more about Late Antique Georgia and the Black Sea region!
- Sasanian Coins Connecting Central Asia to India and ChinaFriday
04-11-2022 @ 14:00Platform | Audit Room, King's College & ZoomID: Please register on 'join meeting' link Passcode: None
Joe Cribb is a numismatist, specialising in Asian coinages, and in particular on coins of the Kushan Empire. His catalogues of Chinese silver currency ingots, and of ritual coins of Southeast Asia were the first detailed works on these subjects in English. With David Jongeward he published a catalogue of Kushan, Kushano-Sasanian and Kidarite Hun coins in the American Numismatic Society New York in 2015. In 2021 he was appointed Adjunct Professor of Numismatics at Hebei Normal University, China.
Join us to hear more about Sasanian coins across Eurasia.
- Pakistan in '75Friday
11-11-2022 @ 14:00Platform | ZoomID: Please register on 'join meeting' link Passcode: None
Ayesha Jalal is the Mary Richardson Professor of History at Tufts University. After majoring in history and political science at Wellesley College, she obtained her doctorate in history from the University of Cambridge. Jalal has been Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge (1980-1984); Leverhulme Fellow at the Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge (1984-1987); Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C. (1985-1986); and Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies (1988-1990). From 1998-2003 she was a MacArthur Fellow.
Her publications include "The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan," "The State of Martial Rule: the Origins of Pakistan’s Political Economy of Defence," and "Democracy and Authoritarianism in South Asia: a Comparative and Historical Perspective." Jalal has co-authored "Modern South Asia: History, Culture and Political Economy" with Sugata Bose. Her study of Muslim identity in the subcontinent, entitled "Self and Sovereignty: the Muslim Individual and the Community of Islam in South Asia since c.1850." Her most recent book is "Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia."
- Consolidation of an Empire: The Mongol Khans as City-buildersFriday
18-11-2022 @ 14:00Platform | ZoomID: Please register on 'join meeting' link Passcode: None
Susanne Reichert is a Humboldt Foundation-funded visiting researcher at the University of Michigan. Her work spans the Eurasian continent with a focus on Western early medieval archaeology and the archaeology of the Mongol World Empire in Mongolia. She is currently researching the Empires of Charlemagne of the 8th and 9th centuries CE in Western Europe and the Mongol World Empire founded by Chinggis Khan in the 13th century in a cross-cultural perspective in order to overcome the hackneyed cliché of the Nomad-sedentary dichotomy. Her research will explore the areas of economy, military, ideology, and administration through intensive comparisons between the two case studies. In recent years, Susanne led several field research campaigns around Karakorum, the first capital of Mongol Empire in the Orkhon Valley, Central Mongolia, as well as Khar Khul Khaany Balgas, a contemporaneous habitation site in Central Mongolia, to arrive at a better understanding of city–hinterland relations and the nature of pastoralist city foundations.
Jan Bemmann is a specialist in the archaeology of the Mongol Empire (1206–1368), focussing on the analysis of multi-faceted dependencies in this quickly-expanding and enormous state. The political and economic success of the Mongol World Empire highly depends on the exploitation and deportation of specialists out of the conquered regions into Inner Asia. Advisors, literati, bureaucrats, artists, astronomers and the like are gathered at the court(s), artisans, architects and farmers specialized in irrigation are settled in newly-founded cities, builders of war machines, engineers and parts of defeated armies are integrated into one of the most successful armies in the Old World. Jan Bemmann compares the strategy of moving people and knowledge in the Mongol Empire with similar practices in earlier Inner Asian steppe empires.
Join us to hear about their recent research in Mongolia, through an investigation of cities of the Mongol Empire.
- Inadvertent Empire: China’s Strategies in Central AsiaFriday
25-11-2022 @ 14:00Platform | ZoomID: Please register on 'join meeting' link Passcode: None
China’s rise is changing the world. Much attention has been given to how China’s geo-economic vision is playing out in the global economy, or how its technology is reshaping the planet, yet it is over its western borders, in Central Asia, that China’s influence has been quietly expanding in a more pervasive way. In this talk, Raffaello Pantucci will talk about the first strand of Xi Jinping’s grand Belt and Road Initiative, China’s new Silk Road to the West, and about a decade of research and travel across Central Asia. In Sinotan, Pantucci and the late Alexandros Peterson conducted interviews with Chinese traders in latter day Silk Road bazaars; climbed remote mountain passes threatened by construction; commiserated with Afghan archaeologists charged with saving centuries-old Buddhist ruins before they were swept away by mining projects; and looked at how China’s foreign policy initiative has expressed itself on the ground, and what it means for those living both within and beyond the boundaries of its ‘inadvertent empire’.
Raffaello Pantucci is a Senior Associate Fellow of RUSI and was formerly Director of International Security Studies. He is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rararatnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His research focuses on terrorism and counter-terrorism as well as China's relations with its Western neighbours. He is the co-author of Siostan: China’s Inadvertent Empire published in 2022 by Oxford University Press.
- The Rise of Baghdad as the First World Trade CentreFriday
02-12-2022 @ 14:00Platform | Audit Room, King's College & ZoomID: Please register on 'join meeting' link Passcode: None
Hugh Kennedy has been Professor of Arabic at SOAS University of London since 2017. After completing a PhD at Cambridge, he taught as lecturer and then professor of Middle Eastern History in the University of St Andrews from 1972 to 2017. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and also of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the history and archaeology of the early Islamic world. His books have been translated into ten languages. He is presently working on a new translation of al-Balādhurī's Futūḥ al-Buldān and an economic history of the Muslim Middle East in the early Middle Ages.
- Shadow Empire: Imperial state formation in cross-cultural perspectiveFriday
17-06-2022 @ 14:00Platform | ZoomID: Please register on 'join meeting' link Passcode: None
Empires can be differentiated into two ideal types: endogenous and exogenous. Endogenous empires such as China, Rome and Persia emerged through a process of internal development, outward expansion from a core territory, and extracted the fiscal resources they required internally through systems of direct taxation or tribute payments. Exogenous (shadow) empires, by contrast, came into existence as products of their interactions (direct and indirect) with established endogenous empires and their persistence depended on such relationships, a form of secondary imperial state formation. Their political and military structures were designed to extract the economic resources on which they depended from external sources rather than internal ones. These included direct appropriation (raiding and piracy), favorable terms of trade, extortion of subsidies in exchange for peace, payments received for services rendered, or scavenging the ruins of collapsed endogenous empires. Although endogenous empires often dealt with exogenous empires as peer polities, the latter invariably lacked one or more of an endogenous empire’s characteristics such as population size and administrative complexity in steppe nomadic empires or amount of territory over which it exercised direct sovereignty in maritime empires. China’s relationship with a series of steppe nomadic empires is one of the best examples of an interaction between the two types that produced stable (if not always peaceful) relationships. If, however, an exogenous empire found itself the conquering territories that it had to rule directly it could transform itself into an endogenous empire. Such transformations produced supersized empires twice or three times the size of the largest endogenous empires (Mongol Empire, Manchu Qing Empire, British Empire, Russian Empire).
Thomas Barfield is a social anthropologist who conducted extensive ethnographic fieldwork among pastoral nomads in northern Afghanistan in the mid-1970s and shorter periods of research in Xinjiang, China, and post-Soviet Central Asia. He is the author of The Central Asian Arabs of Afghanistan (1981), The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China (1989), and Afghanistan: An Atlas of Indigenous Domestic Architecture (1991). After 2001 his research returned to Afghanistan, focusing on law, government organization, and economic development issues on which he has written extensively. In 2006 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship led to the publication of Afghanistan: A cultural and political history (2010), a book that received an outstanding title award for American Library Association in 2011. He has served as President of the American Institute for Afghanistan Studies since 2005. His forthcoming book, Shadow Empires, explores how distinctly different types of empires arose and sustained themselves as the dominant polities of Eurasia and North Africa for 2500 years before disappearing in the 20th century.