ACMS Virtual Panel Series: “Twentieth-Century Mongolia” Mar 23, 5 PM PDT | 8 PM EDT | Mar 24, 8 AM ULAT

Title: Twentieth-Century Mongolia (Register here)
Date: Mar 23, 5:00pm PDT; 8:00pm EDT; Mar 24, 8:00am ULAT

The March Virtual Speaker Series panel will focus on the twentieth century Mongolia. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Marissa Smith, and have three speakers presenting on the following topics.

Science in Socialist Mongolia: An Introduction” by Dr. Morris Rossabi (Columbia University)

Abstract: While the Mongolian government and the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party mandated the principles of socialist realism (including a “positive” hero or heroine) in literature and the arts from the 1930s to 1950s, they also influenced the sciences and the status of scientists.  Based on interviews conducted by Yuki Konagaya and L. Lkhagvasuren (and translated into English by Mary Rossabi), this presentation describes six scientists’ early lives, their training and education, and their reactions to twentieth-century Mongolian history.  All derived from herder backgrounds, and four of the six received their graduate training in the USSR.  Only the physician and the historian were educated exclusively in Mongolia.  Their reminiscences are thoughtful and amusing and provide insights into the socialist impact on the sciences.


Why Revolution Did Not End: International Relations and the Mongolian Women” by Dr. Manduhai Buyandelger (MIT)


Abstract: Dispelling a dominant assumption that Mongolian women only became politically active with the advent of democratization in the 1990s, I deliver a historical analysis of how the state socialist Mongolian Women’s Committee shaped women as political subjects by instilling in them mass mobilization and advocacy skills, teaching self-development, and by normalizing women’s place in politics. Although the Mongolian Women’s Committee was an “arm” of the MPRP, the Party repeatedly demoted and de-activated the organization. Based on interviews, oral histories, and memoirs, I illustrate how each generation of the Women’s Committee leaders (i.e., Sükhbaatariyn Yanjimaa, Tserenpiliin Siilegmaa, and Sonomin Udval) were particularly creative and persistent in saving and developing the organization. Their initiated activities under the name of the MPRP had influenced not only the nation’s modernization but also its international relations.


The Soviet Hero in Post-War Mongolian Literature” by Dr. Simon Wickhamsmith (Rutgers University)

Abstract: In the years between the Great Patriotic War (1945) and the deaths of Choibalsan (1952) and Stalin (1953), Mongolia continued to forge stronger and deeper cultural and socioeconomic ties with the Soviet Union. Writers likewise worked to create characters in their work which promoted this relationship, and the first Writers Congress in 1948 emphasized the importance of learning from the Soviets, and in acknowledging their fraternal relationship with Mongolians.

This presentation will discuss three key tropes in this process of social engineering, and the texts which promoted them: Soviet hero as personal friend (in M.Biziya’s 1947 short story Beleg [The Gifts]), Soviet hero as fearless adventurer (in Ch.Lodoidamba’s 1952 short story Altaid [In the Altai]), and Soviet hero as healer (in Ch.Lodoidamba’s 1953 novella Manai surguuliinhan [My Schoolfriends]). These three figures not only helped to lend the rather abstract development of Soviet Realism a more practical and believable character, but also showed promoted ideas of scientific, medical, and military cooperation.


Speaker bios:


Morris Rossabi, (Ph.D. Columbia University) was born in Alexandria, Egypt and teaches Chinese and Mongolian history at the City University of New York and Columbia. Author and editor of several books, including Khubilai Khan, Modern Mongolia, and Voyager from Xanadu, From Yuan to Modern China and Mongolia: The Writings of Morris Rossabi, and A History of China, as well as articles, he has collaborated on catalogs for art exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He has traveled extensively and lectured in the Middle East, China, Japan, Korea, Central Asia, and Mongolia. The National Mongolian University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2009.


Manduhai Buyandelger is a professor of Anthropology at MIT. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University and prior to coming to MIT was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Society of Fellows. She is the author of Tragic Spirits: Shamanism, Gender, and Memory in Contemporary Mongolia (University of Chicago Press, 2013). Her forthcoming book, A Thousand Steps to the Parliament: Women Running for Election in Postsocialist Neoliberalizing Mongolia is the study of women’s experiences of running for elections since 2000s.


Simon Wickhamsmith teaches at Rutgers University, He is the author of Politics and Literature in Mongolia 1921-1948 (Amsterdam University Press, 2020), the translator of Suncranes and Other Stories: Modern Mongolian Short Fiction (Columbia University Press 2021), and the co-editor with Phillip Marzluf of Socialist and Post-Socialist Mongolia: Nation, Identity and Culture (Routledge 2021).

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