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Speaker Series – Black and Yellow Shamans in Mongolia in the 1990’s

November 6, 2018 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

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There is a long tradition in Hungarian academia of conducting field research among the Mongols, dating back to the 1870s. Since then, several students from a variety of research fields visited Mongolia, such as Vilmos Diószegi, who worked with Darkhat and Buryat shamans in the 1950s.

After the political turn in the early nineties, a joint expedition of Hungarian and Mongolian researchers initiated a long-term field research project among various Mongolian ethnic groups. The political turn in the early 90’s created the opportunity for free religious practice and the possibility to study it as well. The 90’s are particularly valuable, as shamans and other religious specialists could continue their traditional activities, which had to be practiced secretly during socialist times.

Since participating in the expedition, Dr. Birtalan has focused her research interests on the oral tradition of various Mongolian ethnic groups, and she has recorded shamanic invocations, rituals and oral narratives. The traditions of “black” (non-Buddhicied) and “yellow” (Buddhicised) shamanic practices have preserved many authentic features, even as they have started to merge with other – sometimes foreign and even strange − new influences.

This presentation will include a brief historical overview of Mongolian shamanism and display Dr. Birtalan’s field experience about the belief system, ritual practice, textual corpus and the ritual objects of the black and yellow shamans of the Darkhat and Oirat territories.

About the Speaker

Birtalan Ágnes (Dr. habil.) is a professor of Mongolian studies at the Department of Mongolian and Inner Asian Studies at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, where she also earned degrees in Mongolian, Russian, and Korean studies, and History. In addition to teaching numerous subjects at her university, she often travels abroad to give lectures. Her main academic interest is the oral tradition of Mongolian ethnic groups, including the shamanisms and Buddhicised folk religion, oral narratives, folklore and various Mongolian dialects. Her studies are based on a philological approach, focusing on the oral or written textual traditions. She has carried out field research in each country where Mongols currently live, including Mongolia, in Chinese Inner-Mongolia and Xinjiang, and in Russia, both Buryatia and Kalmykia. She has numerous PhD-students from Hungary and abroad, and she is the author of several books and several articles written in English, German, Hungarian and Mongolian. Some of her articles and book editions can be found on the site (elte.academia.edu (Ágnes Birtalan).

Dr. Birtalan actively participates in organising Mongolian studies affairs, and was elected president of the International Association of Mongolian Studies (IAMS) in 2016.

About American Center for Mongolian Studies (ACMS)

The American Center for Mongolian Studies (ACMS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting scholarship in Mongolian Studies. The ACMS Speaker Series are organized in partnership with the U.S. Embassy and the Natsagdorj Library and provides an important platform for researchers engaged in Mongolia to share their experiences and findings with the public. The event promotes information exchange on a variety of subjects related to Mongolia and is free and open to the public.

Birtalan Ágnes


November 6, 2018
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
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