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BMBD Poster

For over a thousand years, the lands between Moscow, Beijing, and Delhi have been one of the most contested arenas of political rivalry, commercial exchange, cultural cross-fertilization, intellectual and artistic creativity, ethnic and religious diversity, and long-distance travel. In this seminar, we will reconstruct the breathtaking experience of these lands between Europe and Asia through a critical reading of eyewitness narratives that range from the travels of a Taoist master summoned by Chingis Khan in the 1210s to the memoirs of a Chechen surgeon struggling to save lives under fire as the Russian government bombed Grozny in the 1990s. We will cover the Mongol, Russian, Chinese, Indian, and Muslim spheres of cultural influence since the early thirteenth century and think about themes such as empires, transregional exchange, material culture, colonialism, nationalism, globalization, modernity, liberalism, socialism, revolution, war, and religion.

Developing skills of understanding an historical phenomenon in its own context and thinking with the terms of that context - what one relate to "intercultural literacy" or "empathy" - are central objectives of this course. The course assignments reflect these objectives. About half of the readings are from primary sources, and the other half are chosen to give students access to the context in which each primary source was created. Grading is designed to work toward the course objectives too. It is based on the following tasks: 1) Weekly blog entries. Students imagine a story in the historical context of the week's theme and try to represent their story in the way it may have felt to the people who created the primary source(s) we read to understand the week's theme. 2) Class participation, and I mean participation not just attendance. 3) Map Quiz - we mark places on Google Earth as we read and discuss. Then I give a map quiz on a blank map that shows Europe and Asia with water bodies but without borders. 4) Final project. This is probably the most exciting part of the course. We get to go to Rubenstein Library and Nasher Museum to  see artifacts, books, letters, etc. that might be relevant to the subjects covered in the course. Then, each student prepares a creative project in which they start from a primary source (or sources) and recreate an historical phenomenon based on that source. They have to conduct research to understand the context of their respective themes and then they have to create a project that brings that context to life. Accuracy and creativity are both important, and their combination is usually the product of seeing and thinking like the protagonists of each story in its respective historical context. This project is not conventional and therefore, somewhat difficult to visualize right away. Therefore, with the permission of my students, I share some of the projects I have received in the past here:

Project Exhibits

Spring 2017

Chingissid Expeditions Alexander Doan, '2018
"Chingissid Expeditions" This project brings to life the expeditions of Chingissid armies in eight stories. The locations of each story are indicated in a hand-drawn map.
Diary of a German Communist Karl Dargel, '2017
"Diary of a German Communist" The diaries of Ludwig Wilhelm Huber, a young German communist, begins in November 1918 in Munich and ends in March 1919 in Moscow, where Ludwig travels to work as a journalist.
The Diary of Koka Kumari Sahiba Melissa Gerdts, '2019
"The Diary of Koka Kumari Sahiba" This is a series of selected diary entries written by Koka Kumari Sahiba, who was the 22nd wife of Mughal Emperor Jahangir. The entries are scattered throughout the years 1608-1620.
Serving British East India Company Michael Brunetti, '2019
"Letters of David Ridley Stringer" A young British man pursues a career in the service of the British East India Company and witnesses the Battle of Plassey in Bengal in 1757.
Recipes through the Dynasties Quinn Steven, '2018
"Recipes through the Dynasties: How Chinese Food and Food Culture Changed over Time" This collection offers recipes from various Dynasties and time periods throughout Chinese history to represent the most significant changes to Chinese cuisine due to socioeconomic, political, industrial, or cultural impacts and globalization.
Sean Snider, '2018
"Conquest of the Mongols" This is a computer game. In it, you will be faced with a series of decisions, and what you pick has consequences. There are two levels. On Easy, you will attempt to save your civilization from the Mongols, and on Hard you play as the conquering Mongols.
Japanese Medicine Sisi Tang, '2019
"Diaries and Notes of a Dutch Medical Student" This young medical student pursues his interest in Japanese medicine from Leiden Japan itself in the 1830s and provides us with copies of fabulous drawings related to Japanese medical practices.
Diaries from Dien Bien Phu Yifan Song, '2018
"Diaries from Dien Bien Phu" Diary of Quan Bonhomme, Lance Corporal of the 1st Battalion, French Foreign Legion - a fictional French-Vietnamese man who fights in the Indochina War and dies some time in 1954.

Spring 2016

Collected Letters of Vera Alexandrovna Ivanova Antje Lang, '2016
"Collected Letters of Vera Alexandrovna Ivanova: 1924-1937" Vera is a young Bolshevik enthusiast who makes a career in the early Soviet Union as a propaganda artist working for the Pravda under Nikolai Bukharin's patronage. As Bukharin falls out with Stalin, however, Vera has to face realities of economic hardship and eventually persecution, all reflected in her letters to her grandmother some of which accompany the posters that Antje presents as made by Vera.
Korean Comfort Women under Japanese Occupation Jane Yu, '2017
"Korean 'Comfort Women' under Japanese Occupation" How a young Korean girl whose family faces hardship and wants to mary her off is lured into prostitution as a "comfort woman" in the Japanese army.
Workers, Soldiers, Partisans Jessica Findlay, '2018
"Workers, Soldiers, Partisans! The Roles of Women in War Time USSR" Experiences of Soviet women during WWII inspired by war-era posters.
Red Colored Glasses Lisa Guo, '2016
"Red Colored Glasses: The story of a Chinese woman as portrayed by propaganda versus her lived reality" The following is the story of one woman told in two different ways. The first perspective, in red text (the color of the Communist party), is in line with propagandist material from that time. In black is the story told from a richer, more realistic point of view. The stories here are inspired by various primary sources, including my own family members' experiences.
Becoming a Commander in Chingis Khan's Army Parit Burintrathikul, '2016
"Becoming a Commander in Chingis Khan's Army" It was already late in the morning when the two brothers, Altai and Chuluun, galloped back to the Borjigin camp, after scavenging for berries and hunting for small game. Chuluun reveled in the winds and scenery grating past him, his horse straining under him as he raced Altai across the plains...

Spring 2015

Adam Lemon - Diary of Suvorov Adam Michael Lemon, '2017
"Sergei Pavlovich Suvorov's Diary Entries, 1878" Though not based on a specific primary source, this project brings to life the ambitions and disappointments of a Russian officer from the famous Suvorov Family during the Russo-British rivalry over Afghanistan in the late-nineteenth century. For a typed copy of the handwritten diary entries , click here (There might be small differences between the two texts.).
Alina - Soviet Soldier in Afghanistan Alina Pak, '2018
"Letters from Afghanistan: A Creative Analysis of the Soviet-Afghan War of 1979-1989" based on multiple sources.
David Chui '2015
"Artifacts of China" based on Athanasius Kircher's (1602-80) "Illustrated Map of" China. This is a large jpg file. Plase be patient to let it download and scroll to read the texts on the map. For a pdf version of the texts and for bibliography, click here.
Colin Taylor - Final Project Colin Nevis Taylor, '2018
"A British Soldier's Letters to His Sweetheart during the Second Anglo-Afghan War" based on the actual letters of Richard Chaloner from 1879-80 at Duke University, Rubenstein Library. For a typed version of the text, with some small discrepancies, click here.
Eitan August - Intelligence Reports Eitan August, '2018
"Secret Department Confidential Newsletter, 1841"based on actual India Secret Department Confidential Newsletters from 1841 at Duke University, Rubenstein Library.
Jack - Final Project Jack Gavigan, '2018
"The Memories of Chingiz Khan" based on The Secret History of the Mongols and Travels of an Alchemist.
Katherine Koric - Final Project Katherine Elizabeth Coric, '2016
Travel Journals: Northern India before the Third Anglo-Afghan War" based on R.B. Holmes Photograph Collection, 1910-1926, etc.
Mary Lee - Final Project Mary Lee Jones Lawrence, '2017
"Peking: A Social Survey" based on Sidney Gamble's China, 1917-1932: Photographs of the Land and Its People.
Ryan Bowman - Soviet Propaganda Posters Ryan Lee Bowman, '2017
"Interpretations of WWII Soviet Propaganda Posters"
Tahsin Zaman - Final Project Tahsin Ahmed Zaman, '2015
Route to British India: Mid-Nineteenth Century" based on multiple sources. Some of the visual effects in this project were lost while converting to an easy-to-read pdf file. Please click  here for a reduced quality file that shows the visual effects but is relatively difficult to read.
Vance Swett - Diary of a Yuan Dynasty Scholar Vance Wayne Swett, '2015
Diary of a Yuan Dynasty Scholar" based on multiple, mostly visual, sources.




Mustafa Tuna, Duke University, Slavic and Eurasian Studies & History