A Faculty Member’s Images of Vanishing Nomadic Tribes

In the Taurus Mountains of Turkey, Yörük nomads live largely according to the needs of their livestock, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles to help their herds of goats or sheep thrive. The modern concepts of “state” and “citizenship” apply awkwardly to them; they speak several languages and their religious identity is somewhat fluid. (Most are Shia Muslims, but they only worship on Fridays.) Praveen Chaudhry, professor of Social Sciences, has spent nearly a decade in the Himalayas working with Bakerwals of Kashmir and Changpas of Tibet. He started working with Yörüks two years ago, photographing this community as they brave climate change and modernization’s painful changes. “Instead of seeing them as a problem, the role of a civil society is to ease the transition,” he says. For him, the group provides a stark example of how the concepts of “home” and “belonging” are myths—for instance, 350 years ago there was no Turkey, and no America. “So everyone comes from somewhere else.”

Until April 3, an exhibition of Chaudhry’s large-format images, curated by Kyunghee Pyun, associate professor, History of Art, is on display in the Gladys Marcus Library. An ethnographer, Dr. Souzeina Mushtaq of Ohio University, provided guidance for the photography project, which the team calls a “visual ethnography.” It previously appeared at the Museo de La Ciudad de Cuernavaca in Mexico. Later this year, the show will travel to Istanbul Technical University.

Chaudhry, the recipient of a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Scholarship and Creative Activities, spoke at the Liberal Arts Dean’s Forum on February 12.

(Click on each image to read the full caption).

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