The Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center at Indiana University, Bloomington continued to look for creative ways to cope with the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 virus pandemic on our range of activities as well as how we carry them out. Teaching at the university remained overwhelmingly virtual (also known as “remote instruction”) during the Spring 2021 semester as were all IAUNRC-sponsored events. As we near the end of the current academic year, the good news is that in the Fall 2021 semester, beginning at the end of August, IUB fully expects to return to person-to-person teaching as the predominant mode of instruction across the entire campus. We expect to continue to have considerable flexibility in format and how we organize various events, and we very much look forward to the renewed wider range of opportunities we will have.
Despite the limitations imposed by the pandemic, two events that IAUNRC organized and sponsored in April clearly illustrate how effectively a virtual format can be used to explore important and timely topics. Indeed the electronic venue permits the efficient mobilization of participants from all over the world. This principle was applied, for example, in the IAUNRC annual Spring Symposium–Finland and Estonia: Perspectives on the Environment–in which five experts from Estonia, Finland, the United Kingdom, and the United States addressed the environmental challenges these two countries face from a variety of multi-disciplinary perspectives, including education, belletristic literature, and biodiversity. The speakers were Kara Brown, Associate Professor of Educational Studies at the University of South Caroline; Aiki Jõgeva, a science teacher in an Estonian elementary school; Marianne Juntunen, a teacher at an Arctic school in Finland; Emma Itäranta, a Finnish writer; and Tuul Sepp, Associate Professor of Animal Ecology at the University of Tartu. A second highly successful panel was part of our Area Studies Pathways Professionalization series and focused on opportunities in the non-profit sector. Three former IU Central Eurasian Studies graduate students participated: Stevie Pactor, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Indiana; Amita Vempati, non-profit consultant; and Rebecca Gordan, Program Director, Madeleine Albright Institute for Global Affairs, Wellesley College.
IAUNRC is proud of its continuing co-sponsorship of important conferences that have been able to occur in spite of the absence of face-to-face contact required by the current situation. The Association of Central Eurasian Students at Indiana University organized its annual conference at the end of February with a nine wide-ranging panels focusing on numerous regions and using various disciplines. The keynote address, “Elections, Virtual Reality, and Climate Change: What Can Anthropology of Mongolia Offer?,” was delivered by Manduhai Buyandelger of MIT. A second conference, ConCALL-4 or Conference on Central Asian Languages and Linguistics, came in April and was organized by IU’s Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region (CelCAR). As in past meetings the main emphasis this year was on an interdisciplinary approach to the languages of a broadly defined Central Asian region by means of phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and language pedagogy and acquisition.