Points of Transition: Ovoo and the Ritual Remaking of Religious, Ecological, and Historical Politics in Inner Asia

Conference/Symposium | February 22 | 10 a.m.-6 p.m. | 180 Doe Library

 Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS), UC Berkeley Mongolia Initiative, Townsend Center for the Humanities

Ovoo, the structures of stones, trees, scarves, skulls, steering wheel covers, and a staggering array of other objects that are ubiquitous across the landscape of contemporary Mongolia, Buryatia, Inner Mongolia, and Qinghai, have long marked sites where ritual, though often highly spontaneous, practices invoke the presence of immanent relations. Built and maintained by various publics, gatherings at ovoo have over past centuries been major sites of political action, where the identities of and relationships between more and less local shamans, lamas, imperial officials, businesspeople, bureaucrats, politicians, and nonhumans are narrated, contested, and re-defined. At the same time, ovoo are often engaged individually, by travelers engaging roadside ovoo or at places generally unspoken of to others and not visible on the wider landscape, that are especially significant to an individual or intimate group. Scholars from the US, Europe, and Asia will be discussing such issues as how these sites are useful in juxtaposing historical and political narratives, ecological and environmentalist movements, religious practice, and the productive logics of households, businesses, and states.

 ieas@berkeley.edu, 510-642-2809