The Fall 2019 semester has been a busy time for our Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center. As promised in our application for federal funding, we have engaged in a wide range of activities that seek to make our region better known among the American public of all ages. Two interesting recent examples of our outreach work are the following. Across several funding cycles, Title VI national resource centers at Indiana University, Bloomington have participated in a program called Bridges: Children, Languages, World that offers exploratory after-school language classes in less commonly taught languages to young learners. This semester we are offering very successful classes in Persian, taught by volunteers who are themselves studying the language at IUB. Another example that highlights our ability to have an important impact at several levels is the Early Childhood Education Study Tour to Finland by faculty, staff, and students at St. Louis Community College that took place in May and focused on what makes that country’s educational system such a resounding success.
Our sponsorship of events on the IUB campus has also been extensive, making effective use of opportunities that have arisen. In July, during IUB’s Language Workshop, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Baltic Studies Summer Institute (BALSSI) with a panel discussion on the contribution of this rotating language program to Baltic studies in North America. In November, as a continuing part of a scheduled four-year effort called the Area Studies Advancement Project, we held a very productive meeting which addressed numerous issues and challenges in using an area studies approach in higher education. Two highly topical and recently released films that we sponsored were the documentary Undercover: Inside China’s Digital Gulag on the incarceration of Uyhgur Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China as well as Said va Saida, an Uzbek film that explores Soviet-era repression of two Uzbek intellectuals. In addition, IAUNRC continues to organize and support lectures, both by IUB’s own faculty as well as distinguished visitors, including the following: Christopher Beckwith on the Scythians and the Persian Empire, Gulnisa Nazarova offering an oral history of the Uyghur diaspora in the Soviet Union, Gyelmo Drukpa exploring key terms in Chinese documents for understanding Tibetan history, and two lectures by András Kós evaluating the European Union’s ties with NATO as well as the role of the Visegrad 4 countries in the EU.
Importantly, we also recognize the need to make the cultures of the Inner Asian and Uralic peoples accessible to the general public. In July, for example, we supported the annual summer concert of the Bloomington-based Silk Road Ensemble in a local church, which was free of charge and very well attended, and in September IAUNRC was a leading sponsor of the visit to Bloomington’s popular Lotus Festival by Kardemimmit (Spice Girls), an acclaimed Finnish folk music group that specializes in playing the country’s national instrument, the kantele (similar to a zither or psaltery).