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2016 Yuri Bregel Lecture: Rian Thum presents, "Contemporary Chinese Central Asia in Deep Historical Perspective"

Mon, Nov 14, 4:00 pm
IMU Walnut Room

What can a long view of history -- one that puts contemporary conditions in dialogue with pre-modern and even ancient phenomena -- tell us that narrower studies cannot? Rian Thum gives examples of contemporary issues in Chinese Central Asia (Altishahr, Xinjian, Eastern Turkestan) that cannot be understood outside of such deep historical context, including identity, cultural destruction, and Islam. He then asks how close attention to the contemporary world can in turn help us avoid historical distortions, arguing that ethnographic awareness can alleviate common problems like elite-heavy history, as well as drawing us closer to the world views of historical actors.

Rian Thum (Ph.D. Harvard 2010) is Associate Professor of History at Loyola University New Orleans. His research and teaching are generally concerned with the overlap of China and the Muslim World. His acclaimed book, The Sacred Routs of Uyghur History (Harvard University Press, 2014), based on manuscripts in Chaghatay and Persian, argues that the Uyghurs -- and their place in China today -- can only be understood in the light of longstanding traditions of local pilgrimage and manuscript culture.