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Inner Asian & Uralic National
Resource Center

School of Global & International Studies College of Arts & Sciences


Spring 2017 Newsletter

This newsletter highlights the Spring 2017 activites of the IAUNRC and its associates, as well as future plans. In this issue, we feature a variety of travelogues from CEUS students who were willing to share their experiences and research projects with us. We look forward to sharing even more content with you in our Fall 2017 newsletter!

New Faculty Spotlight

CEUS Welcomes Preeminent Scholar of Central Eurasian Studies to department


Dr. Marianne Kamp is one of the leading experts of gender studies in post-Soviet Central Asia. She is pictured here at the entrance to the Hamza Hakimzoda Niyozi house museum in Qo'qon, Uzbekistan

The Central Eurasian Studies department at Indiana University is renowned worldwide for its assemblage of talented scholars and experts in the field. This year, the department has added another top-notch scholar to its roster. Dr. Marianne Kamp, associate professor of Central Eurasian studies, brings with her over 25 years of research in the fields of women, gender, and social change in Central Asian states both before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The IAUNRC spoke with her about her work in Uzbekistan, her research interests, and her planned course offerings.

When asked what piqued Dr. Kamp’s interest in Central Asia, she can’t help but laugh. “It was about as far from Indiana as you could possibly get,” she said. Dr. Kamp grew up in Evansville, Indiana - a moderately-sized city located approximately 120 miles southeast of Bloomington.  She remembers being interested in the Soviet Union even during her youth.  “I was a child of the Cold War, and I was always fascinated by it for some reason,” she said.  Read more here.

In Memoriam:

CEUS Remembers Tibetan Scholar Dr. Elliot Sperling


Students of Dr. Sperling gathered for a memorial service in his honor at Bloomington's Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center. From left to right: Ben Michaels, Gendun Rabsal, Sara Conrad, Lee JiYoung, Katie Ottoway, Elliott Ubelhor (Standing), and Tenzin Tsepak.

On January 29, the world lost one of the leading historians of Tibet and Tibet-China relations when Dr. Elliot Sperling passed away unexpectedly in his native New York City.  His parting has been especially hard for many of his colleagues and students at IU who remember him not only as an outstanding scholar but also as a supportive mentor who always made time in his busy schedule to share his knowledge and ideas with others.  Two of Sperling’s students, Sara Conrad and Elliott Ubelhor, say that Sperling taught them the fundamentals of scholarship and inspired them to pursue Tibetan Studies. Read more here.

First Student Participates in the Sinor Inner Asian Studies Research Exchange program

by Hosung Shim

Russian Map

Hosung Shim is a PhD Candidate in Central Eurasian Studies. This spring semester, he is conducting dissertation research in Beijing. This is the first year that a student has participated in the program; In the past, it has only been available to faculty. Hosung agreed to write about his research and experience for the IAUNRC newsletter.

For the spring semester of 2017, I have been staying in Beijing, China as the Sinor Inner Asian Studies Research Exchange student. With the generous support of the CEUS department and the Tang foundation, I am currently doing my dissertation research at Peking University and the First Historical Archive of China. My dissertation project discusses the internal dynamics of state-formation and state-management in the Central Asian steppe of the 17th and 18th centuries. To be specific, my research tackles the history of the Zunghar principality, the last independent nomadic state of the Central Eurasian steppe. The main purpose of this project is to prove the political agency of the Zunghars (i.e. Mongolic nomads in the Central Asian steppe) over the course of the rise and fall of their own state during the 17th and 18th centuries. Since the Zunghars were considered the arch-rivals of the Qing Dynasty in Central Eurasia and were then finally destroyed by the same dynasty, China has contained the most numerous and detailed historical sources regarding the Zunghar principality. Therefore, China, especially Beijing, is the most appropriate place to develop my dissertation research considerably. Read more here.

SRIFIAS Library Settles into New Home

Aybike Tezel Provides an Update about the SRIFIAS Collection

Aybike has been working with the SRIFIAS library for over four years.

When the IAUNRC invited me to write something about the SRIFIAS library for their newsletter, I realized that this place has become one of those things in my life that I can write and talk about for days if only I could decide where to start! I was a visiting graduate student at the Center for Research on Ancient Chinese History at Beijing University when I got admitted to the department of Central Eurasian Studies at IU. My advisor there, Professor Luo Xin, who at the time was packing his bags for a research trip to Bloomington, could not stop talking about the SRIFIAS library. “I’m sure you’ll spend all your time in Bloomington in the SRIFIAS,” he would say repeatedly. When I think about it now - after spending the past four years of my life at the SRIFIAS, both as a patron of the library and a graduate assistant - professor Luo Xin’s omen seems to be well proven! Read more here.

Not-So-Small Talk: Reflections on Fifteen Years of Working in Central Asia

by Sam Buelow

Russian Map

Samuel Buelow in 2008 at the Medeu Skating Rink outside of Almaty, Kazakhstan. He will soon graduate from Indiana University with a PhD in Anthropology. Throughout his time at IU, he has volunteered with the IAUNRC, giving presentations about Kazakhstan to elementary and middle schoolers and syllabus design for graduate students.

As my time at IU draws to a close (I defended my dissertation in February), it seems like an opportune moment to reflect on my travels to Central Asia. Since coming to IU in 2006, I have been to both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan five times. Over the years, my project changed several times before settling into its final incarnation – an examination of the relationship between ethnonationalist trends and LGBT experience, centering around a group of young, ethnic Kyrgyz who call themselves “crossdressers.” While LGBT issues had been on my radar since I first travelled to Kazakhstan in 2002 as an undergrad at the University of Pittsburgh, it would be several years before I would give in to the desire to center them in my research. Read more here.

Wild Horses, Wolves, and Weddings

by Brendan Devine

Russian Map

Brendan Devine is a graduate student currently pursuing his master’s degree in Central Eurasian Studies. He traveled to Mongolia in the summer of 2016 on a Title VIII fellowship.

When I first arrived in Mongolia, it was after midnight.  I had just spent the better part of 26 hours on planes or in airports. I was tired, and I was struggling to remember even basic Mongolian after having studied the language for two years. The first week I was hesitant to speak Mongolian for fear of embarrassment. However, Mongolians are among the kindest and most earnest people I have ever met. When they discovered that I was actually making an effort to learn the language, they were excited to speak with me and to help me learn, and I found them to be very patient with my mistakes and mispronunciation. I quickly found that the best way to practice my Mongolian and to force myself to find creative ways to express new ideas was simply to leave the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, or even just to leave the city center. The farther from the city center you go the less likely you are to find English speakers and in many sojourns out into the beautiful Mongolian steppes, I did not encounter a single Mongolian who spoke English. With this revelation, I found myself leaving the city at every opportunity that I had, which led to some of the best experiences of my life. Read more here.

Talking Tibetan

Elliott Ubelhor

Russian Map

Elliott Ubelhor is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Central Eurasian Studies with minors in Religious Studies, Art History, and Chinese. He is currently studying Tibetan through the Foreign Language and Area Studies scholarship offered by the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center.

In the summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to travel to Beijing and Shanghai in China, as well as to Seoul in South Korea, as an ambassador and student orientation leader through Indiana University’s IU2U program. The program allowed undergraduate students to help facilitate pre-orientation workshops for international students from a variety of different countries. The purpose of these workshops was twofold; First and foremost, they were designed with the intent of helping international students get an idea of what life would be like here at Indiana University before they came for their own orientation in August, but it also gave domestic students from the United States a chance to visit countries of fellow Indiana University undergraduates and see the environment that these students were coming from to Indiana University. Read more here.

A Summer in Tajikistan

by Jermaine Butler

Russian Map

Jermaine Butler is a graduate student currently pursuing his master’s degree in the Central Eurasian Studies and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures departments. He traveled to Tajikistan in the summer of 2016 on a Critical Language Scholarship.

Ah, Tajikistan! I could write an entire book about my adventures there, but I’ll keep my memories brief this time around. A large part of the reason that I’m so in love with Tajikistan is due to the amazing opportunities I’ve received since returning to America, and for that, I am eternally indebted. In the summer of 2016, I was awarded a CLS (Critical Language Scholarship) to study Persian in Tajikistan. Now I’ll be honest, I knew absolutely nothing about Tajikistan before applying for this program, and least of all that they spoke Persian. In my defense, the majority of people I spoke with about my upcoming journey hadn’t heard of the country either. I did a little bit of light internet research on the country, its culture, and most importantly, the dialect of Persian, but I was left with largely no idea about what I was getting myself into and so the journey began! Read more here.

Sacred Spaces in Azerbaijan

by Hayley Pangle

Russian Map

Hayley Pangle is dual degree graduate student in both Central Asian studies and Library Science. She spent nine months in Azerbaijan as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in 2014 – 2015. The following is an adaptation of a post from a blog that she kept during her stint.

I became fascinated with religious mysticism during my undergraduate studies. Mysticism is religious practice off the beaten path; basically, the idea that one is not dependent on a religious hierarchy/structure to have a relationship with the divine — whatever that means to the individual. It is universal; movements all over the world have shaken organized religions to their cores, and I appreciate anything that challenges the status quo when it becomes stagnant.

And don’t think that mysticism, with its desert-living hermits and vision-having nuns, is a thing of the past. It’s a thriving element of spiritual life the world-over, including Azerbaijan, a country seeking a coherent religious identity as it navigates independence. Read more here.

A Summer in Beyoglu, Istanbul, Turkey

by Ben Priest


Ben Priest is a graduate student in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (NELC). He wrote an article for the IAUNRC telling us about his research interests and giving us an insight into his experience as a CEUS student abroad.

From May 15 - July 21, 2016, I lived in Beyoğlu, Istanbul, Turkey. My purpose for being there was two-fold – the first was to study Turkish and Kurmanji Kurdish, and the second was to conduct pre-dissertation research. In the course of my graduate work, I’ve been bounced around by the realities of regional politics, and as one avenue of research closed, I would seek another. I chose Istanbul because it most closely aligned with what was then the topic of my research, namely understanding the meaning and value of Islamic shrines and other sacred spaces. It was my intent to work mostly with the Eyüp Sultan shrine complex and locate several smaller locales for comparison and contrast. While Eyüp Sultan is a fascinating place and smaller shrines were not difficult for me to locate, it quickly became clear to me why all the best treatments of Islamic shrines are written by women; while the smaller shrines had a more even distribution of visitors, the majority of those praying at Eyüp Sultan were women, and the situation made it inappropriate for me to approach and conduct interviews.  Being a non-Muslim, American male put up more barriers than it bypassed in this particular case. Read more here.

Conducting Research in Kyrgyzstan

by Joey Shepard

Russian Map

Joey Shepard is a graduate student in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He recently wrote an article for the IAUNRC telling us about his research interests and giving us an insight into his experience as a CEUS student abroad.

This academic year I have been studying Kyrgyz language and conducting research for my master’s thesis in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Last year I received a Boren Fellowship which I am using to study in the Eurasian Regional Language Program (ERLP). One of my teachers here helps me with conversation practice and another teaches my language class. My conversation teacher was the Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant for Kyrgyz at IU in 2014 and really helped me make a lot of progress before, so I was glad to be able to work with her again. With my other teacher, I was able to make a plan for the content of the class, since I am the only student. One thing I really like about the ERLP is how flexible the lessons are. My goal this year is to achieve a level 3 on the Speaking and Reading sections of the language test administered by the US Department of State, so our classes are focused on reaching that goal. At the moment, we are working with articles from a newspaper that covers national politics in Kyrgyzstan. Read more here.

Fulbright Spotlight: Golshat Safiullina from the Republic of Tatarstan

by Emily Stranger

Dr. Kappanyos

Golshat Safiullina (center, in green hat) teaches elementary school students traditional Tatar dances

This academic year, the CEUS department welcomed Golshat Safiullina as a Fulbright Scholar to teach Tatar.  She moved here in October with her two daughters, who study at Binford and Rogers Elementary Schools. The IAUNRC talked Golshat about her work in Linguistics, her academic interests, and her experiences in Bloomington.

Safiullina has been teaching English at Kazan State University since 1998, where she studied Comparative Philology. After defending her thesis, she became interested in the Comparative Studies of Idioms with a focus on English and Tatar. She soon found that English resources were far and few between in the Republic of Tatarstan.  “In 2000, a strong necessity of the knowledge of the English language was felt by everyone, but unfortunately there were no textbooks for the English language with Tatar instructions,” she said.  Safiullina decided to tackle the issue head on.  In 2004, she began working on a Tatar-English dictionary. It took her over 10 years to complete.  “Along with the project, I had my two daughters and I can say that the dictionary is my third child,” she said with laugh. The dictionary was published in 2014 and contains over 25,000 multiple translations. Also for the first time, the phonetic transcription of English words is given in the International Phonetic Alphabet. Safiullina said she has received an offer to make a reverse version of the dictionary. Read more here.

Faculty Spotlight: Noora Helkiö


This spring semester, Noora Helkiö joined the Finnish program in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies as a teacher trainee. She is currently working on her Master’s degree in Finnish Language at the University of Helsinki with a minor is Pedagogical Studies in Finnish as a second language.

This is not Helkiö’s first experience teaching the Finnish language to non-native speakers. For the past three years, she has been teaching Finnish to both university students and adult immigrants in Helsinki.  In 2015, Helkiö and other graduate students in her cohort at the University of Helsinki developed their own teaching method for spoken Finnish, which they named Toisto-Metodi. “Toisto literally means repetition, which is vital when you are starting a new language,” said Helkiö. “Through this method, you become accustomed to hearing the language, and one of the main goals of Toisto-Metodi is to get the pronunciation right from the beginning.” Read more here.

Collaboration with IAUNRC Partnership Insitutions

Turkish CEUS Scholar Brings her Knowledge to Claflin University

Zeynep shared her knowledge about Turkish culture and literature with students and faculty at Claflin University

On March 27, Zeynep Elbasan, Associate Instructor of IU’s Turkish Flagship Program, traveled to Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C. to give a lecture and a faculty workshop about Turkish culture and literature.  The faculty workshop was based on the novel White Castle by Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk.  Mohammed Yousuf, Associate Professor of Political Science Department of Social Sciences at Claflin, said Elbasan’s visit was a success.  “The lecture to students served its purpose very well as it helped them enhance their understanding of the multicultural world of ours.  We had high attendance, and students enjoyed the talk,” he said.  “The faculty gave very positive feedback. They intend to incorporate the material into their courses for teaching purposes.” In early November, Hungarian Professor Péter Krekó and Hungarian scholar Jessica Storey-Nagy were invited to talk to students and faculty at Claflin University about the importance of international and area studies and to share their research on Hungarian nationalism.


Zeynep engages with students inside a classroom at Claflin University

Recent Events

2017 Navruz Celebration

On March 26, 2017, the Association for Central Asian Studies held its annual Navruz Concert in the Global and International Studies Building. The GISB Auditorium was full of both participants and audience members who came to celebrate the Central Asian New Year. Spectators were treated to songs, dances and poetry recitals by Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants (FLTA), Persian language students, and IU students who are originally from countries that celebrate Navruz. The program began with a Tashkent-Ferghana style dance performed by Madina Rakhimova, a FLTA from Uzbekistan, and ended with a Kazakh Kara Jorga style dance performed by Aliya Sultanova, a FLTA from Kazakhstan.  The evening commenced with a buffet-style dinner catered by Anatolia restaurant.

Graduate Student Ezgi Benli Garcia Guerrero performs “Mavilim”. Read more here.

22nd Annual Lotus Blossoms World Bazaar

On the weekend of March 31, the IAUNRC participated in the 22nd Annual Lotus Blossoms World Bazaar, an annual event that offers crafts and other activities that celebrate various world cultures through art and music. It was held in the gymnasium at Binford Elementary School.  This year, the IAUNRC helped children make their own paper pishtaqs using colorful stamps and stencils. Jaime Bue and Ben Priest, both 2016 FLAS recipients, volunteered their time to help with the event.

Graduate Assitant Andrew Archey helps elementary students make pishtaqs.

The 24th Annual ACES Conference

This year marked the 24th Anniversary of the Central Eurasian Studies Conference held at Indiana University. The Association of Central Eurasian Studies (ACES) hosted the conference in tandem with the Mongolia Society’s Annual Meeting from Friday, March 3rd to Saturday, March 4th, 2017. Presentations as well as the Keynote speech were held in IU’s Student Building near the iconic Sample Gates with a reception at the Mathers Museum featuring Mongolian musical performances by the Mongolian Cultural Association of Chicago. Read more.


To learn more about the Association of Central Eurasian Students at Indiana University, click here.


List of recent lectures held at Indiana University about Inner Asian & Uralic regions and topics.

Every year our center is proud to support talks from experts around the world that come to Indiana University to contribute to our rich intellectual community. Talks this semester included:

-“Inedible Harvest: Cotton, Collectivization, and Uzbeks’ Diverse Interests” by Dr. Marianne Kamp

-“The Khora of Migration: Care and Longing Between Nepal and New York City” by Dr. Sienna Craig

-“How to Get from Minneapolis to Isfahan: Public Space and Public Poetry in the Bridges of Siah Armajani and the Pol-e Khvāju” by Dr. Paul Losensky

-“Urban Transformation in the Post-Soviet Space: The Case of Baku” given by Dr. Anar Valiyev

To listen to these talks click here.

IAUNRC Outreach Events

Uzbek classes at Harmony School
by Shahlo Seidmedova

Shahlo (left) helps students at Harmony school create felt yurts

Every Thursday in February, my colleague Emily Stranger and I visited a small class at Harmony School in Bloomington. This private school, which is comfortably located close to the IU campus, invited us to their Multicultural Month Celebration. We partnered with Adam Lehman, one of the Harmony School teachers, and put together a lesson plan for the following four weeks. Our goal was to create four lessons that build upon each other and that would give the young audience a multi-faceted introduction to one of the regions in Central Asia. Uzbekistan became our choice. Read more here.

The 24th Mongolia and Inner Mongolia: Independence, Livestock, and Environment

On Tuesday, April 18 at 1:00pm and 4:00pm, graduate student Kenny Linden gave a talk entitled “Mongolia and Inner Mongolia: Independence, Livestock, and Environment” at Indiana University South Bend.  Brian Cwiek, Adjunct Lecturer in History, said the talk exposed his students to more Inner Asian content that focused on ethnic minority and cross-border issues. Kenny’s talk compared the historical experiences of Inner Mongolia and independent Mongolia in the 20th century and examined several contemporary environmental issues. College students were the primary audience, but there was also a faculty member present for each session. In the spirit of inter-campus collaboration, Kenny then had an opportunity to informally interact with Brian’s students outside of the classroom to answer their questions and generally provide more information about Mongolia. (photo courtesy Brian Cwiek)

Director's Note
Edward Lazzerini Dr. Edward Lazzerini

As the 2016-2017 academic year draws to a close, we can take stock of both successes in fulfilling our Title VI mandates and uncertainty regarding the immediate and ultimate fates of the federal programs that have supported area studies for decades. The news from Washington, DC, insofar as the federal budget for the new fiscal year is concerned, reflects President Trump’s commitment to cutting expenditures in areas of support for higher education programs, including those that have long served the hard sciences, social sciences, and the arts and humanities. Directly impacting area studies is the recent announcement that along with the Fulbright Program, Title VI funding is to be terminated, although the general assumption is that Congress will not allow such a draconian end to many of these time-honored programs. Much discussion, nevertheless, is ongoing to identify alternative sources of public and private funding to ensure that international programming at IU, one of its hallmarks, does not suffer unduly.

On a more positive note, our work with MSIs and Junior Colleges continues to expand. We have identified a student at Claflin University in South Carolina, who will attend IU’s 2017 Summer Intensive Language Program to study Turkish with a fellowship from our Center. Kasia Rydel-Johnston, my Assistant Director, and I recently visited Ivy Tech to attend a meeting of its International Programs Coordinating Committee to lay plans for AY 2017-2018, whereby we can contribute to a variety of activities and institute new ones drawing upon the areas of our competency. Finally, as part of the Center’s collaboration with Kazan Federal University in Russia, we hosted two specialists of the Tatar language for a week-long visit to IU. Professors Alfiya Yusupova and Kadriya Fatkhullova shared a presentation on language policy in Tatarstan, and Professor Fatkhullova led an energetic “master class” introducing the Tatar language to a packed room of IU faculty and graduate students.



When permitted by the speaker or performers, the IAUNRC records lectures, concerts, and performances that it supports so that they may be made available online as a learning resource for the public. In addition to several Fall 2016 lectures we have featured in this newsletter, you can hear past recordings by visiting our website

Iranian Studies Workshop

Graduate Student Brown Bags

This year, graduate students in Iranian Studies had the chance to share their research with both professors and peers who share a likened interest in Iran. Beginning in the fall semester, CEUS and Islamic Studies hosted a monthly workshop series that gave current graduate students a venue to share their current projects.  The workshops began in the fall semester and were championed by Keith Wilson, Ph.D. candidate in Political Science, who presented his dissertation titled “Rethinking Domestic Explanations of Rivalry Fluctuation: Iran and Its Response to Shocks.”

The workshop is the brainchild of Dr. Seema Golestaneh, assistant professor of Central Eurasian Studies. “I was inspired by the students,” she said.  “We have many fantastic students working on very diverse aspects of Iranian Studies, so I thought it would be nice to develop a showcase where the students can share their research but to also foster a sense of an intellectual community and see what other people are working on in our field.” Golestaneh said she likes the workshop format because it is informal and gives graduate students the opportunity to receive helpful feedback from their peers. She said she has been pleased with the response from both students and faculty.  “I’ve noticed that we have students asking to present, which is great because sometimes graduate students can be shy when it comes to sharing their work,” she said.  “It made me really happy that people see this as a supportive environment where they can collaborate.” Golestaneh said she also appreciates the support from CEUS faculty, many who volunteered to be discussants.

Talks this semester included:

- “Rethinking Domestic Explanations of Rivalry Fluctuation: Iran and Its Response to Shocks” given by Keith Wilson

- "Ali Shariati: Ideologue of the Iranian Revolution" given by Alexander Shepard

- "Eating Their Kurds and Whey: Turkish-Iranian Relations, 1979-2000" given by Matthew Kuhl

"A Semantic Analysis of Mood Selection in Complement Clauses in Persian" given by Narges Nematollahi

- "From the Ashes: Khomeini’s Role in the Transition to the Islamic Republic during the Bazaragan Era" given by Kenneth Weber

Resources for Partner Institutions

The IAUNRC is dedicated to working with partner institutions to develop long-term and sustainable relationships. The Center can provide videoconferences, targeted teaching materials, and funding for travel to interested institutions. To learn more about what the IAUNRC can do for your institution, click here.

My experience teaching in the Bridges language program
by Madina Aybekovna

Since December, I have been meeting with little humans to teach Uzbek, my language, every week. It has been one of the most enlightening experiences that I have had here as a Fulbright scholar at IU. Read more here.

Assistant Director Celebrates 15 Years at the IAUNRC
Edward Lazzerini Kasia Rydel-Johnston

The staff and director of the IAUNRC would like to offer our most sincere congratulations to our assistant director, Kasia Rydel-Johnston, whose selfless and tireless endeavors on behalf of the center’s varied programs and outreach activities over the past 15 years, have left an enduring and positive legacy. Ms. Rydel-Johnston’s contribution to the center’s mission and day-to-day operations have been absolutely essential and integral to our success. Furthermore, Ms. Rydel-Johnston has had an overwhelmingly positive and long-lasting influence on generations of graduate assistants (and students) who have served or worked with the center in varying capacities, as volunteers or employees.

Newsletter Editor: Emily Stranger
Limestone relief
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