CASI RESEARCH SEMINAR: Materiality and Political Practice in Early Inner Asia

CASI RESEARCH SEMINAR: Materiality and Political Practice in Early Inner Asia

June 22, 2018

SPEAKER: Aybike Seyma Tezel, CEUS & ANTH Ph.D. Candid. Indiana University Bloomington

Abstract: In a debate over the appointment of the officials and the rules of propriety, Yelü Chucai, the great minister of the Mongol court, warns the newly enthroned Ögedei by citing Lu Jia of the Former Han: “although the world was won on horseback, it cannot be governed on horseback.” With this quote, Chucai emphasizes the limits of military power and the necessity of a political agenda to maintain the continuation of a strong state.  In this presentation, I will offer an archaeology of political practice in early Inner Asia, with an analysis of the operation of power through material and symbolic practices. The major question that guides my research is: how is materiality engaged in political practices and in the negotiation and expression of socio-political relations. To analyze this question, I will explore the utilization of material and symbolic resources, in the forms of circulation of goods and political strategies and institutions in the political sphere of the Inner Asian steppe zone, with special attention given to various manifestations of materiality in the form of the circulation and display of commodities. Instead of describing the functioning of political structures, my aim in this presentation is to understand the culturally specific political forms, practices and social relations that constitute the fields of political action in Inner Asia during the First Millennium.

Bio: I am a dual Ph.D. candidate in Central Eurasian Studies and Anthropology (Archaeology) at Indiana University. I majored in Philosophy and Sociology as an undergrad at Middle East Technical University in Ankara where I also got an MA in History with my thesis on “Wu Zetian: The Only Female Emperor of China.” For my doctoral studies at IU, I am investigating the socio-cultural aspects of the interrelationships between mobile pastoralist and sedentary communities in the early Inner Asia with a focus in the culturally specific expressions of identity (i.e., the self vs. the other), and the negotiations of social engagements in relation to material culture and materiality. My work aims to generate an approach to the socio-cultural history of the early Inner Asia by bridging the divide between archaeology, history and textual sources, and to contribute to the larger field of mobile pastoralist studies.