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Interview with SRIFIAS Graduate Assistant, Aybike Şeyma Tezel

When the IAUNRC invited me to write something about the SRIFIAS library for their newsletter, I realized that this place has become one of those things in my life that I can write and talk about for days if only I could decide where to start! I was a visiting graduate student at the Center for Research on Ancient Chinese History at Beijing University when I got admitted to the department of Central Eurasian Studies at IU. My advisor there, Professor Luo Xin, who at the time was packing his bags for a research trip to Bloomington, could not stop talking about the SRIFIAS library. “I’m sure you’ll spend all your time in Bloomington in the SRIFIAS,” he would say repeatedly. When I think about it now - after spending the past four years of my life at the SRIFIAS, both as a patron of the library and a graduate assistant - professor Luo Xin’s omen seems to be well proven!


The SRIFIAS library has been located in its new space in the 7th floor of the Herman Wells Library for the past two years. After a long and painful moving process, we finally have all of our collection rehoused. Thanks to the facilities of the Wells library, we are now able to serve the patrons with better microfilm readers and copy machines. I know for the veterans of this library, SRIFIAS can’t be thought of as separate from Goodbody Hall. For the past four years in the SRIFIAS, I have got to meet many former students who happened to come back in town and “make their own ziyarat to the SRIFIAS and circumambulate Goodbody Hall,” like the former CEUS student Dr. William A. Wood who mentioned this in his talk at the “Islamic Studies at IU, Authority in Muslim Eurasia Workshop” last weekend. While writing these sentences in our new office at the Wells Library, I can’t help but reminisce about an ordinary weekday back in our cozy and spacious location at the Goodbody Hall. Gyorgy Kara is walking a Mongolian visiting scholar through our collection of classical Mongolian literature in one corner, while Paul Losensky is introducing his students to the Persian dictionaries in the other. Devin DeWeese’s students are working hard on a Chagatai manuscript while we set the books on the desk for Ron Sela’s Bibliography class in the reading room. The smell of the incense sticks, burning in Elliot Sperling’s office, fills the room as the evening falls on the SRIFIAS.


Denis Sinor, world-renowned scholar of Central Asian Studies, founded the Asian Studies Research Institute at Indiana University in 1967. The name was changed to the Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies in 1979. The institute assumed its current name, the Sinor Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies, in 2007, honoring Sinor’s legacy. Under the directorship of some of the leading Central Eurasian Studies scholars, such as Denis Sinor (1967 – 1981), Stephen Halkovic 1982 – 1985), Yuri Bregel (1986 – 1997), Devin DeWeese (1997 – 2007), and Edward Lazzerini (since 2007), the Research Institute has been the most outstanding center in the world, contributing to scholarly research in all aspects of Inner Asian Studies for half a century. The SRIFIAS creates and engages with the research and educational community through its publication series, such as Papers on Central Eurasia, Ad Fontes, and Uralic and Altaic Books, and through the hosting of annual lectures like CEUS Colloquia, Volga Kama Initiative Lectures, and Bregel Lectures. The SRIFIAS also maintains a library of 12,000 materials on the history, languages, literatures, geography, ethnographies, and religions of Central and Inner Asia, in all major Central Eurasian languages. Our library also houses several special collections, including, the Ilhan Başgöz Turkish Folklore Archive, Antoinette K. Golden Tibet Collection, the Eberhard Archive, and the Dudukalev Archive.


In addition to those, the SRIFIAS houses the Central Asian Archives, which consist of microfilms and photocopies of out-of-print publications and manuscripts obtained from libraries in Moscow and St. Petersburg as well as from manuscript repositories in the former Soviet Union, Turkey, India, Afghanistan and such. Every year, we host visiting scholars from all over the world who want to work in the Central Asian Archives. This enables us to create both friendly and scholarly relationships with the Inner Asianists in different countries and to learn from each other’s work.