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Rian Thum argues that the roots of this history run deeper than recent conflicts, to a time when manuscripts and pilgrimage dominated understandings of the past. His talk uncovers the systems Uyghurs used to maintain a sense of their homeland as a center — in the face of both the knowledge that Islam arrived from a very distant place and the fact that Altishahr was ruled from Beijing by people who were very foreign. Through the interaction of manuscript technology, sacred places, travel, and graffiti, Uyghurs cultivated a sense of the local in the face of an almost cosmopolitan connection to the rest of the world. The traces of this complex of historical practices have long been obscured by a scholarly focus on modern nationalism, but have survived to shape the political and cultural terrain of Altishahr today.
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Forgotten Geographies in Asian Studies - Association for Asian Studies

During my graduate school years in the s, I thought a lot about how disciplines were defined and the borders between them policed. I also thought a lot about what it meant to cross standard dividing lines between periods, for I was interested in issues that played out over all of the twentieth century but scholars of Chinese modern history tended to stop at , leaving discussion of later periods to social scientists. I thought much less back then, though, about how the borders between countries and regions were defined and policed. At some point between the year that I received my doctorate, , and the year that I was accorded the privilege of beginning my ten years as editor of the Journal of Asian Studies, , this changed. I now spend a great deal of time thinking about how geographical borders are maintained and argued over, and about how political the use of terms relating to them can be. It appeared in August and included superb essays by, among others, a member of this panel: Sumathi Ramaswamy. One reason I liked the issue was that beyond engaging with spatial borders it crossed them, bringing together scholars working on different parts of Asia who were grappling with similar questions.
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He went to Harvard College at the age of 16 and graduated in with a bachelor's degree in East Asian studies. A Rhodes Scholar , he attended Hertford College at the University of Oxford , where he read for a second bachelor's degree in modern history and politics. From to , he was also a warden at Frewin Hall, Brasenose College. In , he retired from the Singaporean national swimming team but continued to represent Oxford in swimming. While preparing for his Channel swim, Thum also set a world record when he swam around the Rock of Gibraltar in 2 hours and 52 minutes.
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