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
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 Buryatias brand, I am interested in what happens when local ethno-branding projects run up against and must make themselves legible to the states 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 states 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.