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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 We do not record the seminars or mini-conferences as you will be hearing about brand- new, often unpublished research and we hope to facilitate questions and discussion between the audience and speakers.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

  • From Foundation to Function: Reevaluating the Samanid Tomb through New Evidence
    Friday
    14-06-2024 @ 14:00
    Platform | Online Event
    ID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None

    The Samanid tomb in Bukhara, constructed during the reign of Ismail ibn Ahmad Samani (r. 892-907), was a central Muslim pilgrimage site until the 1920s. For over a thousand years, the Samanid descendants maintained ownership of the shrine and the donated properties from Ismail and wealthy patrons who wished to showcase their nobility and piety. When the Communists confiscated all forms of private land ownership and waged a war against religion, the Samanid heirs either escaped from Bukhara or managed to fit into the new order of the Soviet state. The building itself featured in every survey of Islamic architecture as a representative of funerary architecture from the Eastern Islamic lands, however, little attention has been given to the physical layout of the site and the endowment deeds associated with the building.

    In this talk, Dr. Tosheva will analyze the site, architecture, and endowment deeds to make three arguments: that the Samanid tomb was not a single tomb but part of an Islamic funerary complex built on the formerly non-Islamic sacred site of Bukhara; that the architecture of the tomb shows continuities with earlier religious building practices of Bactria; and that the waqf documents demonstrate the lawful position of the structure in medieval society and the patron’s pragmatic but pro-Islamic intentions. The talk thus underlines the importance of analyzing the architecture in light of archaeological evidence and available textual sources to understand the religious and cultural life of medieval Bukhara. Additionally, it explores broader issues such as how architectural iconography continued during the early Islamic period and how Islamic religious practices adapted to what already existed at a particular site.

    Short biography.

    Dilrabo Tosheva is a historian of ancient and medieval art, architecture, and visual culture, specializing in the artistic production of Eurasia, Turkic, and Persian cultural spheres, and so-called Silk Roads. She holds bachelor's and master's degrees in history from Uzbekistani universities, M.Sc. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and PhD from the University of Queensland, specializing in architectural history. Currently she is Postdoctoral Associate on Central Asian Studies at Yale University. At Yale she is working on her book project based on her PhD thesis. For the 2024-25 academic year, Dilrabo Tosheva will be Aga Khan Fellow for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University.

Recent Events

  • “Fraternal relations: idioms of kinship and modes of cooperation in Mongolian-Soviet trans-border resource governance”
    Friday
    26-04-2024 @ 14:00
    Platform | Keynes Lecture Theatre, King’s College (and online)
    ID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None

    Abstract

    From environmental activism to international law, ‘cooperation’ between states is widely seen as key to protecting the environment from anthropogenic harm. Emphasising working together over the pursuit of self-interested goals, cooperation is imagined both as a method for managing water resources, and a description of the collaboration involved. But how cooperation is actually imagined and practiced in everyday life is not anthropologically well explored. This paper draws on historical and ethnographic material from Mongolia to examine how practices of joint water management were enacted between this country and the Soviet Union. Focussing on ideas of ‘fraternal relations’ between these two socialist countries during the second half of the twentieth century, it examines how kin relations were appropriated to frame the enaction of inter-state cooperation in environmental management. The material on which this paper is based relates to the Selenge river (Mon. Selenge mörön; Russ. reka Selenga), a major Asian transboundary river which rises in Mongolia’s western highlands before crossing the Russian border and flowing into lake Baikal.

     

    About the Speaker

    Dr Joseph Bristley is Research Associate at MIASU, University of Cambridge, working on the ESRC-funded project 'Resource frontiers: managing water on a trans-border Asian river'. He is responsible for carrying out project research in Mongolia, where he has worked since 2013. Aside from Joseph’s current research on the relation between international law and water resource management, he is also interested in Mongolian pastoral economies. Based on previous research he has published on social aspects of money, number and ideologies of abundance, new debt relations, and mountain sacrifices.

  • Influence Dynamics: China’s Strategies in Central Asia amidst Sinophilia and Sinophobia
    Friday
    03-05-2024 @ 14:00
    Platform | Online Event
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    Abstract

    Despite limited pre-1991 engagement due to strained Sino-Soviet relations and Moscow’s dominance in international affairs, China’s influence in Central Asia has surged over the past two decades, surpassing many other external actors, particularly in the economic realm, reshaping regional development trajectories. However, this ascent prompts introspection within Central Asian societies, raising questions about the management of future relations with China, its socio-economic impacts, and the balancing of ties with other partners such as Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Western countries. The presentation will examine Beijing’s multifaceted strategies for engagement with Central Asia, spanning security, strategic, and economic dimensions. It will evaluate the perceptions of China's involvement from the standpoint of Central Asia, encompassing both favorable and critical perspectives, and analyze China's pursuit of soft power initiatives in Central Asia, aimed at addressing negative perceptions and enhancing its influence in the region.

     

    About the Speaker

    Sebastien Peyrouse, PhD, is the director of the Central Asia Program and a research professor at the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (George Washington University), and a Researcher at EUCAM (Europe-Central Asia Monitoring), Brussels. He worked five years in Central Asia, at the French Institute for Central Asian Studies in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (1998-2000, 2002-2005), and was Research Fellow at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington D.C. (October 2006-June 2007), and at the Central Asia and Caucasus Institute (SAIS, Johns Hopkins University (2007-2010). His main areas of expertise are political systems in Central Asia, economic and social issues, Islam and religious minorities, and Central Asia’s geopolitical positioning toward China, India and South Asia.

     

  • Tracing Silver’s Path: Unveiling the Silver Circulation System of Late Ming Dynasty Through the Lens of 50 Taels Official Bullio
    Friday
    10-05-2024 @ 14:00
    Platform | Online Event
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    Abstract

    Since the 16th century, a significant volume of silver from Spanish America and Japan has circulated globally. Concurrently, the early 16th century implementation of the single-whip policy by the Ming dynasty, which consolidated all taxes and labor obligations into a singular silver payment, constituted a important fiscal reform for the empire and substantially increased its domestic demand for silver. Numerous historians contend that Ming China emerged as a primary recipient of silver trade during this era, significantly contributing to the early stages of globalization. Yet, the dynamics of silver distribution within China and the impact of substantial foreign silver influxes on its economic framework remain underexplored. Addressing this gap necessitates an examination of both textual records and archaeologically identified tax silver. A groundbreaking opportunity for such an investigation was provided by an excavation at Jiangkou, conducted by the Sichuan Provincial Institute of Archaeology. This excavation uncovered over 1000 official silver bullions, minted by local authorities across China for tax collection purposes. Through the development of networks based on the morphology and material provenance of these bullions—utilizing morphometric measurements, trace elemental, and isotopic analyses—a novel perspective on the Late Ming China's taxation system and the silver market dynamics has been unveiled.

     

    About the Speaker

    Professor Siran Liu serves as a faculty member in the field of archaeomaterial studies at the Institute for Cultural Heritage and History of Science & Technology, University of Science and Technology Beijing. He earned his PhD from University College London, Institute of Archaeology. Professor Liu's research primarily focuses on the application of advanced scientific techniques and data-driven methodologies for the analysis of archaeological materials. His aim is to shed light on the technological practices and origin of these materials, thereby reconstructing the intricate social and economic networks of pre-modern societies.

  • “The Kazakh Spring”
    Friday
    17-05-2024 @ 14:00
    Platform | Munby Room, King’s College (and online)
    ID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None

    Abstract

    How can a de-institutionalised protest movement disrupt a solidified, repressive and extremely resilient authoritarian regime? Using the context of the Kazakh Spring protests (2019–ongoing), Diana T. Kudaibergen focuses on how the interplay between a repressive regime and democratisation struggles define and shape each other. Combining original interview data, digital ethnography and contentious politics studies, she argues that the new generation of activists, including Instagram political influencers and renowned public intellectuals, have been able to de-legitimise and counter one of the most resilient authoritarian regimes and inspire mass protests that none of the formalised opposition ever imagined possible in Kazakhstan. 'The Kazakh Spring' is the first book to detail the emergence of this political field of opportunities that allowed the possibility to rethink the political limits in Kazakhstan, essentially toppling the long-term dictator in unprecedented mass protests of the Bloody January 2022.

     

    About the speaker

    Dr Diana T. Kudaibergenova received her PhD in 2015 from the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge. Her first book, Rewriting the Nation in Modern Kazakh Literature (Lexington, 2017) deals with the study of nationalism, modernisation, and cultural development in modern Kazakhstan. Her second book Toward Nationalizing Regimes. Conceptualizing Power and Identity in the Post-Soviet Realm focuses on the rise of nationalising regimes in post-Soviet space after 1991 with a prime focus on power struggles among the political and cultural elites in democratic and non-democratic states (Pittsburgh University Press, 2020). Currently, she is completing her third book manuscript on power, state, and resistance in contemporary art of the post-Soviet Eurasia and work on a new project dealing with state/regime theory. Dr Kudaibergenova spent more than two years researching and teaching first sociology major students in Turkmenistan in English at the International University of the Humanities and Development in Ashgabat. She has also held a postdoctoral position at the Lund University Sociology of Law Department and was a Postdoctoral Research Associate on the GCRF-funded COMPASS project at the Centre of Development Studies at POLIS Department at the University of Cambridge.

  • Eclecticism and tolerance in the religions pantheon of ancient Angkor
    Friday
    24-05-2024 @ 14:00
    Platform | Audit Room, King’s College (and online)
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    Abstract

    Ancient Khmer religion was astonishingly open and tolerant of a wide pantheon of deities. The king who sent abroad for the texts of Buddhist Tantra built multiple monasteries around his lineage temple to Siva. When the largely Buddhist Mahidhara dynasty came to power, the king who was crowned by brahmins in Angkor, constructed a vast Esoteric Buddhist temple at home and send his Saiva guru to make donations to the Saiva shrines across the kingdom. In his family’s next generation, one king built the largest Vaisnava temple on earth and his younger brother, on succeeding him, built eight Esoteric Buddhist sanctuaries east of Angkor and addressed his major dedication inscription to the Adi-Buddha Vajrasattva. When Buddhism was finally made the religion of state it embraced the Mahayana pureland of Sukhavati and the cult of Hevajra, while conserving sanctuaries to Siva and Visnu in the state temple.

     

    About the Speaker

    Dr Peter D. Sharrock lectures at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) on the spread of Buddhism across Maritime Asia as it is visible in the art and architecture of Cambodia, Vietnam and Java from 800 to 1400 CE. His passion for the art of Indochina and Southeast Asia was behind his signing up as Reuters’ correspondent during the American war in Indochina. Dr Sharrock’s writings include The Creative South (2022, ed.); Vibrancy in Stone: Masterpieces of the Da Nang Museum of Cham Sculpture (2018, ed.), Banteay Chhmar: Garrison-temple of the Khmer Empire (2015) and (with Vu Hong Lien) Descending Dagon, Rising Tiger: a History of Vietnam (2014).

  • Perspectives on the Umayyad Empire: West Eurasia and North Africa in the Seventh and Eighth Centuries
    Friday
    31-05-2024 @ 14:00
    Platform | Audit Room, King’s College (and online)
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    Abstract

    The Umayyad Empire (644–750 CE) was the first Islamic Empire and one of the largest empires of ancient and medieval times, extending over 5,000 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the deserts of western Central Asia. This talk explores the geopolitical circumstances that brought about the formation of the empire and the turmoil of the seventh and eighth centuries which shaped both early Islamic religious tradition and Arab ethnic identity.

     

    About the Speaker:

    Andrew Marsham is Professor of Classical Arabic Studies at the University of Cambridge and the author of The Umayyad Empire (Edinburgh, 2024), The Umayyad World (2021), Power, Patronage and Memory in Early Islam (with Alain George, Oxford, 2018), and Rituals of Islamic Monarchy (Edinburgh, 2009).

  • Past Globalisation/s?
    Monday
    03-06-2024 @ 09:30
    Platform | Zoom
    ID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None

    The goal of the workshop is to prompt an interdisciplinary conversation about the concept of globalisation and its applicability to the past. Starting from a series of deceptively simple questions (How should globalisation be defined? When did it begin? Is it still a useful concept?), we aim to create a space that brings together longstanding experts and emerging scholars in as diverse fields as economics, archeology, anthropology, and history. 

     

    Invited speakers include Sabina Fiolna, Ignasi Grau, Abigail Moffett, Kevin O’Rourke, Martin Pitts, Manfred Steger and François Velde, who will be in conversation with discussants from across the collegiate university, including Meredith Crowley, Caroline Goodson and Andrew Sanchez. 

  • Workshop "Afghanistan: A Neglected Reality" Zoom Link for the Morning Session
    Friday
    07-06-2024 @ 09:00
    Platform | Keynes Lecture Theatre, King’s College (and online)
    ID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None

    Since its “creation” in the late nineteenth century, Afghanistan has remained a politically destabilised region. Although ostensibly many different political models and governments have been imposed on Afghanistan, no political model or government has succeeded in creating social and political stability in the country, underlined by periodical state breakdowns. The reason behind the word “ostensible” is the fact that from monarch to republic, communist dispensation, Islamist and Taliban, as well as the liberal democratic experiences in post-2001 and the current religious totalitarian state, the prevailing constant remains the assimilationist model for the state, which was established in the 1920s. This situation creates important questions. What went wrong in Afghanistan? Why did the international community, led by the USA, fail to establish a “democracy” in Afghanistan despite investing a lot of resources, including blood and treasure? More importantly, why does the modern state cannot survive in Afghanistan? Why has there been a periodical state collapse in Afghanistan? What political model could be adopted from the available alternatives to make it more responsive to the realities on the ground? Exploring these and other relevant questions can help us understand Afghanistan and the issues facing the country.

    Opening Remarks: Prof. Peter Frankopan

    Discussants: Dr Gillian Tett

    Dr Prajakti Kalra

    Speakers: Dr Christina Lamb, Prof. Amin Saikal, Prof. Nazif Shahrani, Prof. Thomas Barfield, Prof. Jennifer Murtazashwili, Miss Munazza Ebtikar, Mr Abdullah Ahmadi, Dr Said Reza Huseini

    Keynote Speaker: Dr Lauri Bristow

    Closing Remarks: Mr Zalami Nishat

  • Workshop "Afghanistan: A Neglected Reality" Zoom Link for the Afternoon Session
    Friday
    07-06-2024 @ 14:00
    Platform | Keynes Lecture Theatre, King's College (and online)
    ID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None

    Since its “creation” in the late nineteenth century, Afghanistan has remained a politically destabilised region. Although ostensibly many different political models and governments have been imposed on Afghanistan, no political model or government has succeeded in creating social and political stability in the country, underlined by periodical state breakdowns. The reason behind the word “ostensible” is the fact that from monarch to republic, communist dispensation, Islamist and Taliban, as well as the liberal democratic experiences in post-2001 and the current religious totalitarian state, the prevailing constant remains the assimilationist model for the state, which was established in the 1920s. This situation creates important questions. What went wrong in Afghanistan? Why did the international community, led by the USA, fail to establish a “democracy” in Afghanistan despite investing a lot of resources, including blood and treasure? More importantly, why does the modern state cannot survive in Afghanistan? Why has there been a periodical state collapse in Afghanistan? What political model could be adopted from the available alternatives to make it more responsive to the realities on the ground? Exploring these and other relevant questions can help us understand Afghanistan and the issues facing the country.

    Opening Remarks: Prof. Peter Frankopan

    Discussants: Dr Gillian Tett

    Dr Prajakti Kalra

    Speakers: Dr Christina Lamb, Prof. Amin Saikal, Prof. Nazif Shahrani, Prof. Thomas Barfield, Prof. Jennifer Murtazashwili, Miss Munazza Ebtikar, Mr Abdullah Ahmadi, Dr Said Reza Huseini

    Keynote Speaker: Dr Lauri Bristow

    Closing Remarks: Mr Zalami Nishat

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New Silk Roads Research Fellows appointed

Two inaugural Research Fellows have been appointed to the Silk Roads Programme.

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