Monthly Archives: March 2014

Jack Weatherford, DeWitt Wallace Professor, Emeritus

In the 14th century, the North African scholar Ibn Khaldun wrote the first historical work to focus on tribalism as the key to understanding human civilization. In his analysis, civilization faces an eternal dilemma and needs tribal values to survive. In his scholarship, Professor Weatherford tries to follow the tradition of Ibn Khaldun by studying the relationship of tribal people to the larger societies around them and to world history.

Professor Weatherford is a cultural anthropologist who has been teaching Anthropology at Macalester since 1983. He graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1967, with a B.A. in Political Science followed by a M.A. in Sociology in 1972. He also received a M.A. in Anthropology in 1973 and a Ph.D in Anthropology from the University of California, San Diego. He went on to post-doctoral work in the Institute of Policy Sciences at Duke University.

Dr. Weatherford has worked with contemporary groups in places such as Bolivia and the Amazon with emphasis on the role of tribal people in world history. The April 2000 issue from the Chronicle of Higher Education gives an overview of some of that work.

In recent years, he has concentrated on the Mongols. His book Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World was an international best seller published in more than twenty languages. In 2007 President Enkhbayar of Mongolia awarded him the Order of the Polar Star, Mongolia’s highest national award, in recognition of his contribution to Mongolian culture. His most recent work, The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, is the first book written on the daughters of Genghis Khan.

2012 is the 850th anniversary of the birth of Genghis Khan and to honor that anniversary, the Mongolian President’s office sent audio book recordings of Weatherford’s books, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World and The Secret History of the Mongol Queens to be played at all Mongolia’s sacred places from the eastern to the western border. The project took four months.


Morris Rossabi,Professor, historian

Senior  Research Scholar, Adjunct Professor of Inner Asian History; Distinguished  Professor of History, Queens College, The City University of New York

Mongolian  history

Professor  Rossabi is a historian of China and Central Asia. He teaches courses on Inner  Asian, East Asian, and Chinese history at Columbia. During the 2008–2009  academic year, he received an honorary doctorate from the National University  of Mongolia, wrote a preface to the 20th anniversary re-issue of his book Khubilai  Khan (University of California Press), wrote a preface for the Russian and  Korean translations of Khubilai Khan, published the article “MPRP:  Transmogrification of a Political Party” in Pacific Affairs, wrote a  preface to the re-issue of his book Voyager from Xanadu, and  delivered keynote addresses for conferences at the University of British  Columbia, Inner Mongolian University, Nanjing University, and National  University of Mongolia. He also published Socialist  Devotees and Dissenters (National  Museumof Ethnology, 2010) and was named distinguished visiting scholar  at the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka from May through July 2010.

In 2006, he  was named chair of the Arts and Culture Board of the Open Society Institute  (Soros Foundation). He is the author of Herder  to Statesman (Rowman and Littlefield, 2010); The Mongols and Global History (W. W. Norton); Modern Mongolia:  From Khans to Commissars to Capitalists (University of California  Press, 2005); Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times (University of  California Press, 1988), chosen as a main selection by the History Book Club;  and China and Inner Asia Universe Books, 1975). He is the editor of Governing  China’s Multi-Ethnic Frontiers (University of Washington Press,  forthcoming) and a contributor to several volumes of the Cambridge History  of China.

He has  helped organize exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland  Museum of Art, and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. He is on the advisory  board of the Project on Central Eurasia of the Soros Foundation. The author of  numerous articles and speeches, he travels repeatedly to Central Asia and  Mongolia, where he teaches courses on Mongolian and East Asian history.

Professor  Rossabi received his PhD from Columbia University in 1970.


Denis Sinor 1916-2011

The MIASU is saddened to announce the passing away of Distinguished Professor Emeritus Denis Sinor, who died peacefully on the evening of January 12th 2011.

Professor Sinor was recognised worldwide as a preeminent scholar of Inner Asian studies.  His publications spanned Turkic, Mongolian and Altaic linguistics, the history of Hungary, the history of Inner Asia, and reflections on the state of the field.  Formerly at the University of Cambridge, he was invited to Indiana University in 1962.  Professor Sinor was an important institution-builder in the field – he pioneered the Indiana programme of Uralic studies and expanded it into one of the world’s premier institutions for research and teaching on Central Eurasia, and he was prominent in organising the PIAC series of international conferences.

Professor Sinor will be remembered by those who knew him for his wisdom and kindness, his charm and his wit.  His numerous publications are a testimony to his enduring legacy to scholarship.


IMU plans to expand international horizons (whole text)

By Wang Kaihao and Yang Fang in Hohhot  (China Daily)

Updated: 2014-02-24

Tuition reform to charge students based on credit plans, president says

The top educational institution in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region has a clear ambition: to not only revive its leading academic role in Northwestern China, but to expand its international horizons.

“We expect that students here, no matter their ethnic group or where they are from, will have broad minds and great expectations for their future,” said Chen Guoqing, 49, president of the Inner Mongolia University in Hohhot, the autonomous region’s capital.

He knows that education will give the students added opportunities, both nationally and globally.

One-third of the nearly 30,000 students at the university are of non-Han ethnicity and 20 percent of the university’s courses are taught in Mongolian.

Founded in 1957, the IMU was the first comprehensive university in Inner Mongolia. It was also the first to focus on students of non-Han ethnicity after the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

The move was to answer a call by Ulanhu, the then chairman of the autonomous region, for an institution to simultaneously nurture talent from non-Han ethnic groups to contribute to the country’s development and to revive ethnic cultures. Leading scholars from Peking University became the founding fathers of the IMU.

“We started from scratch, but the IMU strictly controlled the number of students at the very beginning,” Chen said, saying the IMU was credited as one of China’s key universities in 1978.

However, the booming market economy since the 1990s posed great challenges as professors left to teach at universities in developed areas where the pay was better.

Those days are gone.

“Thanks to rapid economic and social development in recent years, we’ve entered a new era,” Chen said .

“We cherish talented individuals, and never hesitate to seize every opportunity to recruit more people.”

Though “publish or perish” has been a common practice for college professors in China, Chen promoted a new performance-evaluation system after he became university president in 2010.

“We will not evaluate a teacher by how many articles they’ve published in academic magazines, though that may be an important reference.”

Chen said the change was considered too dramatic by some colleagues.

“We’ve organized an independent evaluation team, inviting top scholars from off campus, to judge a professor’s capacity for research and teaching.”

Nearly 55 percent of academic staff at the IMU now have doctorate degrees, compared with only 25 percent five years ago.

“Excellent academic research results will spontaneously grow in a good environment. Good students are not forged in molds. We merely offer the earth to nurture them. Each student is unique, and that’s why we will begin a tuition reform this year to charge individuals based on how many credits they plan to earn in a semester.”

Chen proudly claims Mongolian studies at the university lead not only the country, but have a crucial role in the world. The IMU has a research squad that includes more than 160 people in the field.

The university took 12 years, from 2001, to complete its Comprehensive History of Inner Mongolia. The eight volumes of the work include more than 10 million characters and it is the largest work giving a detailed record of Inner Mongolia’s history from prehistoric times to 2000.

The biggest breakthrough in the history is a volume, chiefly edited by Liu Zhongling, one of China’s top ecologists, specifically reviewing Inner Mongolia’s ecological changes through history.

The university has a traditional strength in ecology and biology, which also contribute to numerous ecological protection projects on the autonomous region’s vast grasslands as well as boosting varieties of livestock. The National Center for Animal Transgenic Biotechnology was established at the IMU in 2012.

The achievements also earned the IMU global attention. The university was listed by the Ministry of Education as one of first 38 nurturing bases for overseas students in China. Nearly 800 foreign students now study there and 75 universities from 13 countries or regions maintain official cooperation agreements with the IMU.

“We will step forward in our own way of promoting international communication due to our geographical affinity with Mongolia and Russia,” Chen said.

The university has founded a Confucius Institute in the Republic of Kalmykia, Russia, focusing on the area’s close historic links to Mongolians, and plans to open more in two other neighboring countries. It has also co-founded scientific research centers with countries including the United States, Japan and Australia.

“I’m confident of enlarging our cultural influence overseas. Thanks to our consistently solid academic foundation and increasing number of professors with an overseas educational background, there will be a natural progression,” Chen said.

Q+A | Chen Guoqing

What do you think are the most important characteristics students at the IMU should have?

There’s no ubiquitous standard for good students, and we have to respect each student’s uniqueness. However, generally, they should be honest, creative and tenacious, and never be afraid to try something new.

What is the biggest change you have brought to the IMU?

As a mathematician, I prefer to do something practical than to utter flamboyant words. I will leave others to judge what I’ve done.

How do you expect the IMU to contribute to the development of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region?

We will provide the best scientific support we can, act as a good think tank for strategic consulting, and open up an international outlook for Inner Mongolia.

What do you want to say to freshmen of the IMU?

Everyone is unique. Try your best to know yourself. Harbor great expectations for your future. Know our country better and know Inner Mongolia better. Please seize every moment on campus to enrich your experience and seize your destiny.

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Judith Pfeiffer, Associate Professor in Arabic/Islamic History; Fellow of St Cross College

Judith Pfeiffer


Associate Professor in Arabic/Islamic History; Fellow of St Cross College

Faculty / College Address:

Oriental Institute / St Cross College


Research Interests:

  • Islamic history, historiography, and hagiography of the 13th to 16th centuries
  • Conversion processes, in particular conversion to Islam in the Mongol Empire
  • Post-Mongol (13th to 16th century) theology and philosophy
  • Political thought during the Later Middle Period of Islamic History
  • Buddhism during the Ilkhanid period
  • Early European scholars in Oriental Studies

Current Projects:

Courses Taught:

  • Introduction to Islamic History and Culture
  • Islamic History, 570-1500
  • Religion and politics during the Mongol period
  • The rise of Sufi orders in the Islamic world, 1200-1500
  • ‘Slave Dynasties’ in Islam: From the Ghaznavids to the Mamluk Sultanate
  • Writing Islamic history, 1250-1500 A.D.: from palaeography to historiography
  • Palaeography

Recent Publications:

Books and Edited Volumes

  • History and Historiography of Post-Mongol Central Asia and the Middle East. Studies in Honor of John E. Woods. Eds. Judith Pfeiffer and Sholeh A. Quinn. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2006.
  • Ghazal as World Literature II. From a Literary Genre to a Great Tradition. The Ottoman gazel in Context (Istanbuler Texte und Studien 4). Edited by Angelika Neuwirth, Michael Hess, Judith Pfeiffer, and Börte Sagaster. Würzburg: Ergon-Verlag, 2006.
  • Theoretical Approaches to the Transmission and Edition of Oriental Manuscripts (Beiruter Texte und Studien 111). Eds. Judith Pfeiffer and Manfred Kropp. Würzburg: Ergon Verlag, 2007.
  • Politics, Patronage and the Transmission of Knowledge in 13th-15th Century Tabriz. Edited by Judith Pfeiffer (Iran Studies 8). Leiden/New York: Brill, 2014.
  • Tabriz Politics Patronage and the Transmission of Knowledge
  • Rashīd al-Dīn. Bayān al-Ḥaqāʾiq. Tehran: Mīrāth-i Maktūb/Berlin: Institute of Islamic Studies, Free University of Berlin. (Classical Muslim Heritage Series). (Forthcoming).

Articles and Book Chapters

  • “Aḥmad Tegüder’s Second Letter to Qalā’ūn (682/1283).’ In History and Historiography of Post-Mongol Central Asia and the Middle East, edited by Judith Pfeiffer & Sholeh A. Quinn, 167-202. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2006.
  • “Reflections on a ‘Double Rapprochement:’ Conversion to Islam among the Mongol elite during the early Ilkhanate.” In Beyond the Legacy of Genghis Khan, edited by Linda Komaroff, 369-389. Brill: Leiden, 2006.
  • “‘A turgid history of the Mongol empire in Persia:’ Epistemological reflections concerning an edition of Vaṣṣāf’s Tajziyat al-amṣār va tazjiyat al-a‘ṣār.” In Theoretical Approaches to the Transmission and Edition of Oriental Manuscripts, edited by Judith Pfeiffer and Manfred Kropp, 107-129. Würzburg: Ergon Verlag, 2007.
  • “Confessional polarization in the 17th century Ottoman Empire and Yūsuf İbn Ebī ‘Abdü’d-Deyyān’s Keşfü’l-esrār fī ilzāmi’l-Yehūd ve el-aḥbār.” In Contacts and Controversies between Muslims, Jews and Christians in the Ottoman Empire and Pre-Modern Iran, edited by Camilla Adang and Sabine Schmidtke, 15-55. Würzburg: Ergon Verlag, 2010.
  • “‘Faces Like Shields Covered with Leather:’ Keturah’s Sons in the Post-Mongol Islamicate Eschatological Traditions.” In Horizons of the World: Festschrift for İsenbike Togan, edited by İlker Evrim Binbaş and Nurten Kılıç-Schubel, 557-94. Istanbul: İthaki, 2011.
  • “Protecting Private Property vs. Negotiating Political Authority: Nur al-Din b. Jaja and his endowments in thirteenth century Anatolia.” In Ferdowsi, the Mongols and the History of Iran: Art, Literature and Culture from Early Islam to Qajar Persia, edited by Robert Hillenbrand, A.C.S. Peacock and Firuza Abdullaeva, 147-165. London: I.B. Tauris, 2013.
  • “The canonization of cultural memory: Ghāzān Khān, Rashīd al-Dīn, and the construction of the Mongol past.” In Rashīd al-Dīn. Agent and Mediator of Cultural Exchanges in Ilkhanid Iran, edited by Anna Akasoy, Charles Burnett and Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim, 57-70. London: The Warburg Institute/Turin: Nino Aragno, 2013.
  • “From Baghdad to Maragha, Tabriz, and beyond: Tabriz and the multi-cephalous cultural, religious, and intellectual landscape of the 13th to 15th century Nile-to-Oxus region.” In Politics, Patronage and the Transmission of Knowledge in 13th-15th Century Tabriz, edited by Judith Pfeiffer, 1-11. Leiden/New York: Brill, 2014.
  • “Confessional Ambiguity vs. Confessional Polarization: Politics and the Negotiation of Religious Boundaries in the Ilkhanate.” In Politics, Patronage and the Transmission of Knowledge in 13th-15th Century Tabriz, edited by Judith Pfeiffer, 129-168. Leiden/New York: Brill, 2014.
  • “‘Not every head that wears a crown deserves to rule.’ Women in Il-Khanid political life and court culture.” In Court and Craft: A Masterpiece from Northern Iraq, edited by Rachel Ward, 23-29 (Catalogue of the Courtauld Institute Exhibition Court and Craft: A Masterpiece from Northern Iraq). London: The Courtauld Gallery in Association with Paul Holberton Publishing, 2014.
  • “Rashīd al-Dīn’s Bayān al-ḥaqāʾiq and its Sitz im Leben. A preliminary appreciation.” Introduction to Rashīd al-Dīn’s Bayān al-ḥaqā’iq, edited by Judith Pfeiffer. Tehran: Mīrāth-i Maktūb/Berlin: Institute of Islamic Studies, Free University of Berlin. (Classical Muslim Heritage Series). (Forthcoming).
  • “Teaching the Learned: Jalāl al-Dīn al-Dawānī’s ijāza to Muʾayyadzāda ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Efendi and the Fifteenth-century Transmission of Knowledge from Fārs to the Ottoman Empire.” (Forthcoming festschrift contribution).
  • “Rashīd al‑Dīn’s Jāmi‘i taṣānīf‑i Rashīdī and Its Significance for the Study of the Intellectual History of the Post-Mongol Middle East.” (In preparation).