American University of Central Asia - AUCA - EURASIAN EPICS


Svetlana Jacquesson, who rejoined CASI as a scholar in residence in Spring 2022, convened a forum on oral literature on 4-6 November, 2022 to build on the Institute’s efforts in enriching humanities scholarship in Central Asia and to reinforce its commitment to literary art. The meeting initiated a discussion on epics as (national) heritage in the broader Central Eurasian region, an area that is home to rich Turkic and Mongolian epic traditions that have been documented, ‘preserved’ and published under the auspices of either the Soviet Union or socialist China.

Institutions such as UNESCO brand ‘epic heritages’ that are variously promoted and disputed in the region, though there have been few if any attempts to problematize the literary representations of orality or the creation of these ‘national epics.’ The workshop welcomed international scholars from Oxford, Cambridge, the National University of Australia, and the University of Washington to a dynamic forum that grounded discussions of epics and heritage in a broad comparative context.


George Fitzherbert (Oxford University), Geser epic tradition, Tibet

Author of: 2015, On the Tibetan Gesar Epic in the late 18th Century: Sumpa mkhanpo’s letters to the Sixth Paṇchen Blama (EMSCAT); 2016, Constitutional Mythologies and Entangled Cultures in the Tibeto-Mongolian Gesar Epic: The Motif of Gesar’s Celestial Descent (Journal of American Folklore); 2016, An Early Tibetan Gesar bsang Text (Archiv Orientální); 2017, Law and the Gesar Epic (Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie); 2017, Tibetan Buddhism and the Gesar Epic (Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion)

Svetlana Jacquesson (American University of Central Asia), Manas epic tradition, Kyrgyzstan/China

Author of: 2020, Claiming Heritage: the Manas Epic between Kyrgyzstan and China (Central Asian Survey); 2021, On Folklore Archives and Heritage Claims: the Manas Epic in Kyrgyzstan (Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient); 2022, From Folk Epics to Epic Monuments: Studying and Publishing Epic Lore in the Soviet Union (1920s–1960s) (Journal of Central Asian History).

Michael D. Long, independent scholar, Jangar epic tradition, China

Author of: 2020 (PhD), Discovering epic, constructing culture: culture-politics on China's western frontier; 2020, Finding the ‘Epic of Jangar’: the literary construction of an early Oirat epic in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Asian Ethnicities)

Talant Mawkanuli (University of Washington), language documentation and endangered languages in Central and Inner Asia

Author of: (forthcoming) Voices of the Kazak Steppe: A Linguistic and Historical Study of 18th Century Kazak Diplomatic Correspondence, coauthored with Eric Johnson; 2017, “Jungar Tuvan Revitalization and Text Corpus Building,” in the Proceedings of the International Workshop on Tuvan Studies; Ankara: Hacettepe University.

James Plumtree (American University of Central Asia), Manas epic tradition, Kyrgyzstan

Author of: 2021, A Contemporary Manaschi in Oral Performance and in Print (Alatoo Academic Studies); 2021, Computer-Assisted Analysis of Manas Narratives: Demonstrations and Directions (Manas Sosyal Araştırmalar Dergisi); 2021, A Telling Tradition: Preliminary Comments on the Epic of Manas, 1856-2018 (In Medieval Stories and Storytelling, ed. by S. C. Thomson)

Jonathan Ratcliffe (Australian National University), Geser epic tradition, Buriatia

Author of: 2019 (PhD) Becoming-Geser, Becoming-Buryat: Oral Epic and the Politics of Navigating Four Identity Crises; 2022 The Epic Legacy of Shono-Baatar (Inner Asia).

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