Feminist and Decolonial Histories of Empire in Asia

About this event

How should we study and write people-centered histories of empire in our contemporary moment, when political control is making access to gendered and marginalized knowledge increasingly fraught? How should we make sense of Muslim experiences of political domination in Asia? In this one-day event, two leading scholars of feminist and decolonial history in Central Asia will explore issues related to research, documentation, and the writing of history in Central Asia. Their work on Uzbek and Uyghur history, rooted in a decolonial perspective, illuminates gendered and transnational aspects of Qing and Soviet imperial histories often left out of standard accounts of Russian, Chinese, and Islamic narratives.

Marianne Kamp is Associate Professor of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University and author of The New Woman in Uzbekistan: Islam, Modernity and Unveiling under Communism (University of Washington Press, 2006), a social historian of Soviet Central Asia. She will speak on collectivization, women’s voices, and oral history method.

Eric Schluessel is Associate Professor of History and International Affairs at the George Washington University, and author of Land of Strangers: The Civilizing Project in Qing Central Asia (Columbia University Press, 2020)His talk will focus on Uyghur history, literature, and colonial Chinese histography.

Guldana Salimjan, a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in SFU’s School for International Studies will serve as moderator. Her book project examines the post-1950 history of dispossession in the Kazakh grasslands in Northwest China through Indigenous voices of belonging and remembrance.

This interdisciplinary event, which places History, Anthropology, Women’s Studies, Comparative Muslim Studies, Asian Studies, and Global Indigeneity Studies scholarship in dialogue, is supported by SFU’s David Lam Centre, the School for International Studies, the Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies, and UBC’s Xinjiang Documentation Project.


May 2, Thursday, 10:00-11:30am

Speaker: Professor Marianne Kamp


As a social historian, Marianne Kamp combines research in archives with oral history research. She is interested in the stories that elderly people tell about their experiences during periods of significant social change. More than anything else, she seeks to bring the voices of ordinary people into our understandings of recent history, to humanize accounts of change that might otherwise seem distant and abstract. Her first book, The New Woman in Uzbekistan: Islam, Modernity, and Unveiling under Communism, won the Association of Women in Slavic Studies Heldt Prize and Central Eurasian Studies Society History and Humanities Book Award. Her forthcoming book, Collectivization Generation: Oral Histories of Social Revolution in Uzbekistan, and related articles draw on a large-scale oral history project from the early 2000s. Other key themes of Marianne’s research interest concern international labor migration and changing family formation, with a new oral history project that concerns recollections of 1991 independence in Central Asia.

Talk Title: Changing Women’s Lives through Labor: Gendered Oral Histories from Uzbekistan’s Collectivization of Agriculture


Between 1930 and 1935, Uzbekistan’s tillers were collectivized, becoming a rural proletariat who planted and picked ever-increasing quantities of cotton. Women, interviewed seven decades later, described the ways that the collective farm used their labor, and also the ways that they made use of the collective farm. Their recollections of personal griefs, of labor-related achievements, of abuse, and of opportunity take us beyond a one-dimensional argument that collectivization served to force women to work in the fields, to see the ways that a Soviet version of modernization diversified women’s experiences and expectations.

May 2 Thursday, 1:00-2:30pm

Speaker: Professor Eric Schluessel


Eric Schluessel specializes in the social history of Xinjiang and is pursuing a project on the region’s grassroots economic history. His first monograph, Land of Strangers: The Civilizing Project in Qing Central Asia, won the 2021 Fairbank Prize for East Asian History. He is also the author of An Introduction to Chaghatay (2018, Maize Books) and the co-editor of the book Community Still Matters: Uyghur Culture and Society in Central Asian Context (2022, NIAS Press). Eric recently published a translation of the Tarikh-i Ḥamidi (2023, Columbia University Press), a celebrated Uyghur history of Xinjiang. Eric received a PhD in History and East Asian Languages from Harvard University in 2016, and his work has been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute for Advanced Study.

Talk Title: A Colonial Muslim History of China and the World: The Tarikh-i Hamidi


The Tarikh-i Ḥamidi of Mullah Musa Sayrami (1836–1917) is celebrated as a monument of Uyghur literature and the preeminent Muslim history of nineteenth-century Xinjiang (East Turkestan). Yet it is more than a chronicle--it is a history of the world as seen from the heart of Eurasia and an argument about the nature of politics and faith. Sayrami’s work is also multilayered, polyvocal text, and one that bears recontextualization and rereading through different analytical approaches. This talk explores the Tarikh-i Ḥamidi in terms of its interaction with other Muslim and Chinese sources and as a colonial, transcultural text that advances insightful observations of Chinese power and new ideas about its workings.

May 2, 2024

10:00 AM

SFU Harbour Centre Room 7000


  • School for International Studies
  • David Lam Centre
  • Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies
  • UBC’s Xinjiang Documentation Project