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Marjorie Burge, Asian Languages & Civilizations

Unearthing the Written Cultures of Early Korea and Japan

My research explores the adoption of the Chinese script in Korea and Japan in the sixth through eighth centuries, and seeks to highlight the unique solutions developed by scribes in different locations to mold this pre-existing writing system to their own needs. Moreover, because it was through the immigration of Korean scribes that writing first took hold in Japan, my work also underscores the connections between the written cultures of the peninsula and the archipelago through excavating the presence of individual scribes and exploring their particular approaches to navigating the gap between the Chinese script and their native languages. The archive at the center of this research consists of inscribed wooden strips known as mokkan which are usually recovered in the context of archaeological excavations. While raising larger questions about the relationship between humans and the technologies we employ, my work spans the disciplines of history, literature, linguistics, and archaeology, and problematizes the disparate approaches these fields take to the same body of material.

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Laura Olson Osterman, Germanic & Slavic Languages & Literatures

Gender Performance in Public and Private Celebrations of Navruz in Contemporary Uzbekistan

I would like to request partial funding for a research trip to Uzbekistan, March 7-30, 2023. The trip is to perform ethnographic participant observation for the holiday Navruz. Navruz is a New Year’s celebration, known as the Persian New Year, celebrated around 21 March (today, it is celebrated in Uzbekistan most of the month of March). In Soviet Uzbekistan, the government banned the celebration of Navruz from the 1930s to the 1960s, since it was understood as a Muslim holiday. It was allowed again after Soviet ethnographers established that the holiday actually had pre-Islamic origins. In the 1980s, Navruz was again prohibited on the grounds that it involved Islamic worship. Once Uzbekistan gained independence in 1991, Navruz was reinstated and gained the status of an official national holiday. It has now dual purposes and functions: it supports nation-building with public mass spectacle (including theatrical and music and dance performances), and is also a grassroots holiday which men and women celebrate in somewhat separate spheres. During this holiday, in the Fergana valley men perform askiya, in which they try to best each other by reciting their own humorous satirical verses (like rap battles) in tea houses; elsewhere, they perform kurash, ritualized wrestling, in local clubs, and in Samarkand, they take part in the sport of buzkashi, horse polo.