Public Academic Seminars and Workshops

Tuesday September 22nd 2020. Online seminar: 12:30pm - 2:00pm 

Title: Exiles or Intermediaries? Uyghurs in the Inter-War Middle East 

Dr David Brophy


Worsening political repression in Xinjiang has raised the question of the degree, and nature of support for the Uyghur cause in the wider “Islamic world.” Most discussion of Uyghur exile political activity in the Middle East begins with the 1949 Chinese revolution and the relocation of prominent Uyghur activists to Turkey. This talk examines a series of individuals from Xinjiang who were active in the Middle East in the inter-war period, with an emphasis on Egypt as a hub of intellectual exchange. While in some respects these activities laid the foundations for the emergence of pro-independence agitation from the 1950s onwards, they also form part of a wider milieu of pan-Islamic and pan-Asianist thinking, which offered Xinjiang Muslims a role in mediating, as opposed to interrupting, the growing ties between Republican China and the Islamic world. 

About the speaker

David Brophy is a senior lecturer in modern Chinese history at the University of Sydney. He is the author of Uyghur Nation (Harvard 2016), and translator of the forthcoming In Remembrance of the Saints (Columbia 2020). 

Wednesday July 1st 2020 - Online Seminar - 5.00pm-6.30pm (Sydney time)

Title: Transoceanic fishers: Multiple Mobilities in and out of the South China Sea 

Dr Edyta Roszko, Chr. Michelsen Institute, Norway

Subsidized, militarized and state-supported fishers of Vietnam and China are at the forefront of the South China Sea dispute. Political scientists and economists have largely assumed that fishers, responding to regulations and incentives, are instruments of their states’ geopolitical agendas. This present-centric approach obscures the actual motivations and modalities of fishers’ expansion of their fishing domains. It also downplays the inter-ethnic networks which connect different fishers beyond state territories and localized fishing grounds in both past and present. Using a combination of ethnography and historiography, this research analyzes how fishers move in and out of legal and illegal, state and non-state categories of fisher, poacher, trader, smuggler, and militia. I argue that these shifting occupational categories are predicated on ethnic networks within and beyond states. They reflect wider interconnections between modern state-supported and technology-driven fisheries with older pre-nation-state patterns of mobility, producing new forms of versatility under the states’ radars. 

About the Speaker

Edyta photo

Edyta Roszko is a social anthropologist and senior researcher at Chr. Michelsen Institute, Norway. Her research interests include religion and politics in Vietnam, maritime 'Silk Roads', and oceans and seas that emerge as social, political and economic arenas. Funded by European Research Council, her current project Transoceanic Fishers: Multiple Mobilities in and out of the South China Sea (TransOcean), expands her geographic field beyond Vietnam and China to include other global regions in Oceania and West and East Africa. Her monograph Fishers, Monks and Cadres: Navigating State, Religion and the South China Sea in Central Vietnam is forthcoming in October 2020 with NIAS Press. 

Wednesday 26 February 2020 – Morven Brown 310 – 12.00-1.30pm 

Title: The acquisition of motion event expressions by Uyghur-Chinese early successive bilinguals 

Dr Alimjan Tursun-Niyaz, University of Cambridge 

In this talk, I investigate the relative role of universal cognitive factors, language-specific properties and cross-linguistic influence in the spatial language development, i.e., motion event expressions, of children exposed to Uyghur (a Turkic language of central Asia) and Mandarin Chinese successively (around age 3). I show that, although there is clear influence of universal cognitive factors, bilingual children’s developmental trajectories in Uyghur and Mandarin respectively can be most accurately explained with reference to the impact of language-specific properties. Contrary to previous assumptions, structural similarities between languages do not necessarily lead to cross-linguistic influence, especially when there is a trade-off to be made between structural overlap and syntactic complexity. Bilinguals do not show much divergence from developmental patterns observed for children learning languages similar to Uyghur. Although they show both quantitative and qualitative differences with their age-matched monolingual Chinese peers, bilingual children’s motion descriptions become indistinguishable from the latter over time (» age 8). The findings highlight the potential of the human mind’s ‘language making capacity’ and the need to tap into it by encouraging and sustaining bi/multi-lingualism at home, school and society at large.

About the Speaker:

alim photo

Dr Alimjan Tursun-Niyaz is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, University of Cambridge. His areas of research interest include bi/multilingual acquisition, psycholinguistics and Turkic linguistics.

Wednesday November 20th - Morven Brown Room 310 - 12.30-2.00pm. 

Title: Open Secrets: Ambivalent affect and deflective strategies in Kazakhstan’s nuclear histories and presents 

Professor Catherine Alexander, Durham University 

Between 1947 and 1989 the Soviets tested approximately 456 nuclear weapons on and in a vast tract of land in North east Kazakhstan. When the Soviet-turned-Russian Army finally returned to Russia in 1993/4 from the small town (Kurchatov) that had housed them on the edge of the test site, Kazakhstan was not only left with radioactive contamination, but lacked much of the test documentation needed to understand the effects and was plunged into poverty. Nonetheless, partly in a bid to secure remaining nuclear expertise on the site and town, the National Nuclear Centre (NNC) was set up in this isolated, once closed and secret town to spearhead Kazakhstan’s ‘nuclear renaissance’ and monitor the site. Here I track the various strategies used by the Soviets to contain and disappear this highly secret site before moving to more recent attempts by the government-sponsored NNC to be more open – including opening up a large part of the site, after 25 years of remediation and monitoring, to commercial and agricultural use. Juxtaposing these narratives and strategies with accounts from long-term residents and more recent arrivals in the town provides a sense of far more ambivalent engagements with the town and site, and attempts to contain wastes in a Soviet past and move onto a brighter nuclear future. Rather, what appears is a resistance to any kind of spatial or temporal containment, a denial of progress. I end by thinking through the consequences of assuming the site can be limited in terms of radioactive contamination. 

PhD Masterclass with Prof. Catherine Alexander (Durham University) 

Date: 1:00 - 3:00 PM, 22 November 2019

As part of the Silk Roads@UNSW Initiate at the School of Humanities and Languages, Prof. Catherine Alexander from Durham University is visiting UNSW in November 2019. In connection with a seminar titled Open Secrets: Ambivalent affect and deflective strategies in Kazakhstan’s nuclear histories and presents, we intend to organise a masterclass for a limited number of PhD students during her visit. In this session, Prof. Alexander will draw on her expertise on the anthropological studies in Turkey, post-Socialist Central Asia (Kazakhstan), and the UK to help research students contextualise the challenges they face in the post-fieldwork writing-up period.   

It will be of interest to participants who have completed their fieldwork; and those with a research focus on the built environment, migration, waste and technology, urban studies, and economic and political anthropology are particularly encouraged to apply.

About the speaker


Professor Alexander has carried out fieldwork in Turkey, Kazakhstan and Britain on changing relations between state, market and the third sector, the built environment, migration, waste and technology. Her most recent period of fieldwork explored how formerly elite closed ‘nuclear’ towns in Kazakhstan were trying to re-connect to broader economies. 

25 September 2019, 5:00 - 6:00 pm in UNSW Library, Seminar Room Level 5. UNSW Sydney Kensington

Speaker: Pedram Khosronejad  
Title: African Sitters of Qajar:  Photography, Race and Slavery in Modern Iran 
The Seminar will be followed by an Exhibition Opening at 6.00 (see details below) 

Africans in Iran

The use of photographs in research activities and fieldwork is an accepted and regular aspect of contemporary anthropological practice. Whether formally acknowledged as ‘photo-elicitation’, or the subject of casual conversations, talking to people about photographs is something that visual anthropologists frequently find themselves doing. Photographs of enslaved people defy easy categorisation because they are both the record and a relic of the brutal racism and domination at the core of chattel slavery. Photographs of enslaved children, women and men provide compelling and haunting documentation of individuals otherwise lost to the written historical record. Yet the history of such photographs is firmly embedded in the dynamic of exploitation and dehumanisation that lay at the core of slavery. 

Photography of Africans enslaved in Iran (1840s-1930s) should be considered as an ignored topic in the field of Iranian studies. These visual sources capture the presence of African slaves who have too often been ignored from the socio-historical records of Iran. I view these photographs as powerful images with enduring meanings and legacies. In that context, these photographs are important and perhaps the only visual material that can inform the thinking of readers and scholars about the intertwined histories of African slavery and photography in Qajar Iran. All of these photographs reveal the different ways in which African slaves were posed by others and remind us to ask ourselves about the meaning of being an African slave in Iran. 

About the speaker:  


Pedram Khosronejad obtained his PhD at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris and currently a Visiting Professor at Religion and, Society Research Cluster at the Western Sydney University. Prior to this position, he worked as the Associate Director of Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies at the Oklahoma State University in United States (2015-2019), and The Goli Rais Larizadeh Chair of the Iran Heritage Foundation for the Anthropology of Iran in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland (2007-2015). His research interests include cultural and social anthropology, the anthropology of death and dying, visual anthropology, visual piety, devotional artefacts, and religious material culture, with a particular interest in Iran, Persianate societies and the Islamic world. He is chief editor of the Anthropology of the Contemporary Middle East and Central Eurasia (ACME). 

Photography Exhibition – Race and Slavery – African Sitters of Qajar Era Iran 
23 September – 18 October 
UNSW Library Exhibition Space 
Main Library, Level 5 
Exhibition Opening Ceremony – September 25 at 5.00 pm 

19 August 2019, 4.00-5.30 in Morven Brown MB310

Speaker: Dr Cyrus Yee, Sun Yat-sen University.

Title: “Crisis Management vs Ethnic Tension: The Qing Dynasty’s Dilemma” 

This seminar examines the controversial migration of Han Chinese farmers to Inner Mongolia during the Qing period (1644–1911). The Qing government regarded the presence of large numbers of Han settlements in Mongolia as undesirable since they had tried to keep Mongols and Hans separate since the establishment of their dynasty. Mongol landlords initially recruited Han farmers as labourers but soon found that they lost land to these newcomers. For Han migrants, the decision to migrate and settle in an alien land had been prompted by hardship. In short, rather than any imperial design, this large-scale population movement was the product of the convergence of diverse factors: geography, social conditions, human greed and an instinct to survive. The presence of Han settlers in Mongolia continues to have impact on relations between modern Inner Mongolia and China today. 

Dr. Cyrus Yee is an Associate Research Fellow in History at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou. He received his PhD (History) from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (2017). He holds two MAs and an MPhil degree in History from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong, respectively. His areas of interest include China’s frontier studies, the history of the Mongol Empire, history of modern China, history and politics of Taiwan, cross-Strait relations, history of China’s foreign relations, and the comparative study of Chinese and Western culture. Major publications include “Han Migrant Farmers in Qing Inner Mongolia: Reluctant Pioneers or Human Great Wall?” (forthcoming) and “Wither Mongolian Consciousness? or Ethnic Politics in Mongolia in Early 20th Century.”