Silk Roads Programme Events

Everyone is very welcome to join and participate in the events hosted by the King's College Silk Roads Programme, please add your details here to join our mailing list or get in touch. We do not record the seminars or mini-conferences as you will be hearing about brand- new, often unpublished research and we hope to facilitate questions and discussion between the audience and speakers.

Upcoming Events

  • The Sassoons: The Great Global Merchants and the Making of an Empire
    Friday
    01-03-2024 @ 14:00
    Platform | Keynes Lecture Theatre, King’s College (and online)
    ID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None

    Joseph Sassoon is Professor of History and Political Economy at Georgetown’s Centre for Contemporary Arab Studies and holds the al-Sabah Chair in Politics and Political Economy of the Arab World.

  • Islamic Ceramics in the Fitzwilliam Museum (at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge)
    Thursday
    07-03-2024 @ 10:00
    Platform | In person
    ID: To register click on 'join event' Passcode: None

    Dates and times: 7 March, 10.00-12.30 and 8 March, 10.00-12.00

    Cambridge Visual Culture and the Fitzwilliam Museum are offering the opportunity for Cambridge students to join a masterclass on Islamic Ceramics in the Fitzwilliam Museum. It is designed for students at Cambridge. If you are interested, please register here: https://www.cvc.cam.ac.uk/events/cvc-masterclass-islamic-ceramics-in-the-fitzwilliam-museum/ 

     

    This Masterclass will take place in two sessions across 7th and 8th March. On 7th March, an invited group of experts from across the UK will come together with a selection of objects from the Fitzwilliam’s collection of Islamic ceramics. Through close object study session, these experts will discuss and share their expertise on the objects. Students in this masterclass will be teamed with experts, to record this information-sharing (through voice memos and handwritten transcriptions), so that catalogue records can be updated on the Museum’s collections management database.

     

    In a shorter session on the morning of 8th March, you will come together with a smaller group of these invited experts and a smaller selection of objects. Together with a member of the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Documentation and Interpretation teams, you will discuss what kind of information you would put into a collections management database or on a gallery/exhibition label, and why. By the end of the Masterclass, you will have drafted a label for one of the objects on the table, incorporating what you learned in the study session the previous day.

  • Shaking the nail: the battles around women, power and politics in Central Asia
    Friday
    08-03-2024 @ 14:00
    Platform | Audit Room, King’s College (and online)
    ID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None

    Abstract

    Thirty five years ago, Gillian Tett set out to understand the legacy of the little-known Khudzhum in the lives of Tajik women during the Soviet period. During her fieldwork, the Soviet Union collapsed, and those seemingly-historical issues became vitally current and relevant. How is this playing out today? 

     

    About the speaker

    Dr Gillian Tett is the Provost of King’s College, Cambridge. She also is a columnist and member of the editorial board for the Financial Times. She writes a weekly column on Friday, covering a range of economic, financial, political and social issues. She is the author of, among other books, Anthro-Vision: A New Way to See in Business and Life and the New York Times bestseller Fool’s Gold: How Unrestrained Greed Corrupted a Dream, Shattered Global Markets and Unleashed a Catastrophe. Gillian has received several awards in recognition of her work, including Columnist of the Year (2014), Journalist of the Year (2009) and Financial Journalist of the Year (2008) at the British Press Awards; the British Academy President’s Medal (2011); and the American Anthropological Association President’s Medal (2022). She has an undergraduate degree and PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge, based on research conducted in the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

  • The Stars along the Silk Road: Astronomers from Central Asia in the Abbasid Courts during the Ninth Century
    Friday
    15-03-2024 @ 14:00
    Platform | Zoom
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    The ninth century witnessed the expansion of Islamic empire in both eastern and western directions, leading to the migration of diverse ethnic groups to the heart of the caliphate in central Iraq. This influx laid the groundwork for scholarly exchanges and the encounter of diverse perspectives. While recent research highlights the significant influence of political strategies employed by the caliphs on scientific advancements and the selection of scholarly traditions during that era, it is essential not to overlook the intellectual background of the foreign scholars involved. This paper aims to explore why a noteworthy number of astronomers active in the Abbasid court hailed from Central Asian origins. Is this a mere coincidence, or does it trace its roots back to preIslamic scientific traditions? Notable figures and families, such as al-Khwārazmī, Banū Amājūr, Ḥabash al-Ḥāsib, and al-Farghānī, are considered. The focus of this research is particularly on the latter, who, besides his astronomical skills, contributed to urban construction projects in the Abbasid Empire. Al-Farghānī, with roots in Central Asia’s Fergana as indicated by his name, incorporated elements of the Eastern traditions into his renowned astronomical treatise, which is predominantly Ptolemaic.Notably departing from the Greek tradition, he arrangesthe geographical place-names from east to west, aligned with Persian and Indian traditions. Moreover, in his star catalogue, he referenced observations in a city with the latitude of Fergana. It is crucial to highlight that the people of Fergana held significant political roles in the Abbasid government simultaneously. Following the defeat of local governments in Central Asia, many were transported to Iraq as soldier-slaves and settled in distinct military camps near the Turks, who held elevated political status at the time. Through an examination of the works and activities of astronomers with Central Asian origins, this paper seeks to contribute to understanding the flow of knowledge along the Silk Road within the broader context of political and social settings.

     

    Razieh is a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin. She is currently a researcher on the ERC project “Science, Society and Environmental Change in the First Millennium CE,” where she is researching water engineering and culture in the premodern Islamic Mediterranean. Razieh is also preparing a book for publication with Brill: “Al-Farghānī’s Elements of Astronomy: An Interplay of Meaning and Form at the Intersection of Astronomical and Medical Traditions.”

Recent Events

  • Mountain Media: Theologies of the Present in Northern Pakistan
    Friday
    26-01-2024 @ 14:00
    Platform | Keynes Lecture Theatre, King’s College (and online)
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    Abstract

    In Northern Pakistan, Nizari Isma’ili and Twelver Shi’i communities use painted or arranged rocks to write monumental messages on the Karakoram Mountain range. On one side of the Hunza River, and the Gojal Valley, mountain writing celebrates the continuation of the Imamat, a supra-national institution led by the forty-ninth Imam. Messages congratulate the Nizari Isma’ili community on experiencing Didar, an event that puts them in the presence of “Hazar” or present Imam. In Nagar, on the other side of the river, Twelver Shi’i communities signal their loyalty to their own system of Imamat, which paused at the hidden Twelfth Imam, Mahdi, whose return promises to restore justice to a world bereft of it. Nizari Isma’ili and Twelver Shi’i mountain writing is in direct conversation, continuing a long-standing dialogue between the communities over the relationship between the temporal present, presence, and divinely appointed authority.

     

    Usually elided in favour of burdensome pasts or anticipated futures, the present is an understudied area of the humanities and social sciences. Drawn from ongoing ethnographic research, I test several ways of understanding the present(s) to which Nizari Isma’ili and Twelver Shi’i mountain writing lay claim. First, by understanding the mountains themselves as a media form that brings with their contemporaneity a sense of precarity and impermanence. Second, by examining the materiality of disclosure and guidance among Nizari Isma’ilis in Gojal. Third, I look to some of the ways that these Nizari Isma’ili and Twelver Shi’i communities distinguish between one another’s present concerns through the issue of mourning.

     

    About the speaker 

    Timothy P.A. Cooper is an anthropologist studying religion, ethics, and comparative media in contemporary Pakistan. Currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, his first book, Moral Atmospheres: Islam and Media in a Pakistani Marketplace is out with Columbia University Press in 2024 and was awarded the Claremont Prize in the Study of Religion.

  • From Rome to Armenia: The medieval western ‘Armenian’ stretch of the Silk Road in the light of East-West cultural exchanges, tra
    Friday
    09-02-2024 @ 14:00
    Platform | Audit Room, King’s College (and online)
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    Abstract

    The medieval ‘Armenian’ western stretch of the Silk Road was a place of intense exchanges in the widest sense between Christians, Roman and Armenian, of languages and alphabets, long-distance trade, mission and colonies and the arts with Armenians leading role and looking back onto a long tradition as cultural transmitters. Marco Polo travelled on its main stretch and describes it, and a lot, if not at times most of (not only) Italy’s luxury trade went through its trading centres. From the Mediterranean port of Ayas in the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, the best protected in the Mediterranean, it crosses the entire length of Anatolia and passes between the Ararat and Lake Van before turning south towards Tabriz. Starting in the Roman Borgo with its compounds for the Oriental Christian pilgrims, mainly the Armenians, this talk follows the Europeans’ and Armenians’ presence and intense mutual interests in each other’s lands in the way of a geography of the dogma. It discusses Dominican missions, trade and trading colonies, foreign language and alphabet learning and exchanges of material culture and artistic transfer for example on Armenian khachkars in Vayots Dzor, Armenian inscriptions on the bronze doors of St. Peter’s in Rome and Armenian and Mongol luxury fabrics in miniature painting of Cilicia and later on in Tuscan painting.

     

    About the speaker

    Christiane Esche-Ramshorn is an independent art historian who has completed her latest research project at the University of Cambridge with her book East-West Artistic Transfer through Rome, Armenia and the Silk Road, Routledge 2022. In 2018, Reflections on Armenia and the Christian Orient. Studies in the Honour of Vrej Nersessian appeared at Ankyunacar, Erevan.

  • Mining, protest and social activism in Central Asia
    Friday
    16-02-2024 @ 14:00
    Platform | Online Event
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    Dr Troy Sternberg is Senior Researcher at the School of Geography and the Environment at Oxford University. He works on desert regions, environments in people in Central Asia, China, Mongolia and the Middle East.

  • Burma to Myanmar
    Friday
    23-02-2024 @ 14:00
    Platform | Audit Room, King’s College (and online)
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    Abstract

    Myanmar is historically diverse, home to different kingdoms, empires, principalities, chiefdoms and kinship networks that, until independence from British colonial control in 1948, had never been a single political entity. This talk explores Myanmar’s long histories through the lens of cross-cultural interactions and the impact that these exchanges had upon art and material culture, and in so doing is an exercise in how to address multiplicity and diversity, and produce an integrative account, one that does not minoritise communities or promote the majority view.

     

    About the speaker

    Alexandra Green is Henry Ginsburg Curator for Southeast Asia at the British Museum. She was the lead curator on the Burma to Myanmar exhibition at the British Museum and editor of the accompanying volume published by the British Museum Press. Her other publications include Buddhist Visual Cultures, Rhetoric, and Narrative in Late Burmese Wall Paintings (2018), Raffles in Southeast Asia: Revisiting the Scholar and Statesman (major contributor, 2019), Burmese Silver from the Colonial Period (2022), and Southeast Asia: A History in Objects (2023).

Meet Silk Roads Programme Team
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Silk Roads Programme News

reza

New Research Fellow to join Silk Roads Programme

A third Research Fellow has been appointed to the Silk Roads Programme at King’s.

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The new Silk Roads PhD Studentship is open to applicants

This studentship will provide funding for up to 4 years to pursue research on some aspect of the Silk Roads.

Peter Frankopan - Associate Director of the Silk Roads Programme

Peter Frankopan appointed as Associate Director of King’s Silk Roads Programme

King’s is delighted that Peter Frankopan, the foremost expert on the Silk Roads in the UK...