Queuing into the Afterlife: The Politics of Branding Buryat Buddhism

Lecture | March 21 | 4 p.m. | 180 Doe Library

 Tatiana Chudakova, Department of Anthropology, Tufts University

 Franck Billé, Visiting Scholar, UC Berkeley Mongolia Initiative

 Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS), Center for Buddhist Studies, UC Berkeley Mongolia Initiative

This paper discusses the inadvertent effects of transforming the marked into the marketable on the mundane strategies of “making a living,” both economically and cosmologically, in Buddhist Siberia. Building on anthropological discussions on marketing ethnicity, it tracks attempts to develop a regional brand in Buryatia, a self-governing republic within the Russian Federation that derives its political status from being home to an ethnically Mongol minority. Tracking local efforts to develop “Buryatia’s brand,” I am interested in what happens when local ethno-branding projects run up against and must make themselves legible to the state’s narratives and imaginaries of its national and international identity. In the context of present day Russia examined here, branding ethnicity is a complicated political gambit, in part because the state’s self-presentation has been fluctuating between privileging radical plurality on the one hand and, on the other, laying claims to equally radical cultural and ideological homogeneity. By looking at an instance of ethno-branding “at the edges” – in a region that has historically been situated at the periphery of several, competing spheres of political influence, the paper interrogates how the regimes of value that underpin ethno-branding work alongside a self-conscious politics of marginality.

 ieas@berkeley.edu, 510-642-2809