Dissertation Writing

Maintaining concentration is a problem on more than one level when writing my dissertation. I cannot know how widely spread this problem might be among other PhD students. But, maybe if I describe it here, other students could benefit. This is not a post about dissertation writing secrets, plans, or advice. There are plenty other places on the internet and through university counseling centers to get others’ opinions in that regard. This post is more about a brain-challenge, a thought-hurdle that stands in my way. Continue reading Dissertation Writing

J. G. Renat – Early Modern Swedish Superhero

Johan Gustaf Renat (1682-1744) was an amazing historical figure, a Swedish man with an uncanny skill for survival in strange environments who traveled further afield into Turko-Mongol territory than practically any other European in his generation. He has left an interesting trail of documents and traces in others’ accounts of the time, but still one must rely on conjecture and speculation to put together many of the personal details of his life. Continue reading J. G. Renat – Early Modern Swedish Superhero

Arts and Crafts and Traditions and Antiquity

Traditions, in my experience, are crafted. Which is to say that they do not arise spontaneously out of the thin air, though the specifics of the tradition probably are generated spontaneously from the creativity of those acting out the tradition. In the case of a family, there is little like a tradition to give a sense of history and enduring continuity to a collective experience that so rarely feels permanent or stable.

Continue reading Arts and Crafts and Traditions and Antiquity

Elim-ai: An investigation

Previously I wrote that I would use the blog for writing practice, more specifically for writing things outside the scope of my dissertation. Today I am making an exception: this is an attempt to write coherently about the subject of my next dissertation chapter. My next chapter is about the poem/song now commonly known by the title “Elim-ai,” a text closely connected with the story of the Bare Footed Flight. Continue reading Elim-ai: An investigation

Why are you studying the Kazakhs?

“Why are you studying the history of the Kazakhs?”

I have heard this question many times and it deserves a better answer than I have given in the past. First, I would indicate that the question generally is no more specific than the above. In other words, there is no interest in why I’m studying the 18th century over the 20th century, for example. “Why are you studying the Jüün Ghar wars instead of wars with Russia or Kokand,” no one asks me. “Why all this focus on southern instead of northern Kazakhstan?” Continue reading Why are you studying the Kazakhs?

Famines and Zhuts: Connections in Kazakh History between the 18th and 20th centuries

On a handful of occasions, I have encountered an interesting phenomenon in conversation with some citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan. This anomaly occurs when the discussion turns to my subject of research for the first time: the Kazakh/Jüün Ghar wars of the 1720s, part of the long-term struggle of the 17th and 18th centuries, commemorated under the phrase Ak-taban-shubryndy. This phrase, however, doesn’t always point the listener to the Kazakh – Jüün Ghar wars. Rather, when I have explained that I study the Aktaban Shubyryndy, my conversation partner may nod knowingly and respond with something about the importance of studying the great famine (sometimes the term “genocide” arises) of collectivization that occurred in the early 1930s. Continue reading Famines and Zhuts: Connections in Kazakh History between the 18th and 20th centuries

Archery and Firearms

This post is perhaps more rambling than some…

I have several areas where my hobbies and my academic interests intersect. Since childhood I have loved strategy-based board games and other “war” games on the computer or other video game systems. I believe that that is what fuels my continued interest in military history. Continue reading Archery and Firearms