The Association of Central Eurasian Students at Indiana University (ACES) hosted the 27th annual ACES Conference on Saturday, February 27 and Sunday, February 28, 2021, via Zoom. The ACES Conference is an opportunity for graduate students and emerging scholars in Central Eurasian Studies to present their research and network with peers and senior scholars. It is also a chance for Indiana University students to gain experience in organizing and overseeing an academic conference. This year’s conference brought together 23 scholars from nine universities and five countries in panels on a diverse selection of topics ranging from penal administration and investment arbitration in post-socialist Central Asia to religious experiences in Xinjiang, Estonia, and beyond.
ACES was pleased to host Dr. Manduhai Buyandelger as this year’s keynote speaker. Dr. Buyandelger holds a Ph.D. in social anthropology from Harvard University and is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her first book, Tragic Spirits: Shamanism, Gender, and Memory in Contemporary Mongolia, was shortlisted as one of the top five social science books on Asia by the International Convention of Asia Scholars in 2015 and won the 2014 Francis L.K. Hsu book prize from the Society of East Asian Anthropology. Dr. Buyandelger is currently engaged in research on her second book, tentatively titled A Thousand Steps to the Parliament: Women Running for Election in Postsocialist Neoliberalizing Mongolia, which will examine women’s participation in Mongolian politics in the contexts of democratic elections, neoliberalism, and the intersection of gender and politics. The keynote address, titled “Elections, Virtual Reality, and Climate Change: What Can Anthropology of Mongolia Offer?,” surveyed recent trends in anthropological scholarship, explored events in Mongolia as case studies for global issues, and identified opportunities for future anthropological research in Mongolian studies.
This year’s conference was made possible by the efforts of the ACES Conference Committee, made up of students in Indiana University’s Department of Central Eurasian Studies and chaired for the second year in a row by Samuel Robertson, a graduate student in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies and the O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. ACES also thanks the Inner Asian and Uralic Research Center (IAUNRC) at Indiana University for providing financial support, Indiana University faculty for serving as panel discussants, and the panelists and attendees for making time and effort to engage with new scholarship on Central Eurasia. Without support from the university and our community both in Bloomington and beyond, the ACES conference would not have been able to provide hundreds of researchers with the opportunity to share their work and to make lasting connections with fellow scholars.
Though the pleasant company and the good food that usually accompany ACES conferences were sorely missed in this year of the pandemic, hosting the conference online allowed ACES to attract panelists and audiences from across the globe. We hope to repeat this feat and welcome you back for the 28th annual ACES Conference in 2022.