Type-A bureaucrat who professionally pushes papers in the Middle East. History nerd, linguistic geek, and devoted news junkie.
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New Etruscan Text Found.

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A Phys.org story says:

Archaeologists translating a very rare inscription on an ancient Etruscan temple stone have discovered the name Uni—an important female goddess.

The discovery indicates that Uni—a divinity of fertility and possibly a mother goddess at this particular place—may have been the titular deity worshipped at the sanctuary of Poggio Colla, a key settlement in Italy for the ancient Etruscan civilization.

The mention is part of a sacred text that is possibly the longest such Etruscan inscription ever discovered on stone, said archaeologist Gregory Warden, professor emeritus at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, main sponsor of the archaeological dig.

Warden said it will be easier to speak with more certainty once the archaeologists are able to completely reconstruct the text, which consists of as many as 120 characters or more. While archaeologists understand how Etruscan grammar works, and know some of its words and alphabet, they expect to discover new words never seen before, particularly since this discovery veers from others in that it’s not a funerary text.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Etruscan, and I hope this does provide new material beyond the goddess’s name. Thanks, Trevor!

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Poem by a jewish trans woman written in 1322

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Some trans history for trans day of visibility! Here is a poem written in 1322 by a jewish trans woman! (source and alternate translation). In case you were in need of the knowledge that yes, trans people have been around for a long, long time. [this is an english translation from hebrew]

“What an awful fate for my mother
that she bore a son.
What a loss of all benefit! …
Cursed be the one who announced to my father:
“It’s a boy! …

Woe to him who has male sons.
Upon them a heavy yoke has been placed, restrictions and constraints.
Some in private, some in public,
some to avoid the mere appearance of violation,
and some entering the most secret of places.

Strong statutes and awesome commandments,
six hundred and thirteen.
Who is the man who can do all that is written,
so that he might be spared?

… Oh, but had the artisan who made me
created me instead—a fair woman.
Today I would be wise and insightful.
We would weave, my friends and I,
and in the moonlight spin our yarn,
and tell our stories to one another,
from dusk till midnight.
We’d tell of the events of our day, silly things,
matters of no consequence.
But also I would grow very wise from the spinning,
and I would say, “Happy is she who knows how to work with combed flax and weave it into fine white linen.”

And at times, in the way of women,
I would lie down on the kitchen floor,
between the ovens, turn the coals, and taste the different dishes.
On holidays I would put on my best jewelry.
I would beat on the drum
and my clapping hands would ring.

And when I was ready and the time was right,
an excellent youth would be my fortune.
He would love me, place me on a pedestal,
dress me in jewels of gold,
earrings, bracelets, necklaces.
And on the appointed day,
in the season of joy when brides are wed,
for seven days would the boy increase my delight and gladness.

Were I hungry, he would feed me well-kneaded bread.
Were I thirsty, he would quench me with light and dark wine.
He would not chastise nor harshly treat me,
and my [sexual] pleasure he would not diminish

Every Sabbath, and each new moon,
his head he would rest upon my breast.
The three husbandly duties he would fulfill,
rations, raiment, and regular intimacy.
And three wifely duties would I also fulfill,
[watching for menstrual] blood, [Sabbath candle] lights, and bread…

Father in heaven, who did miracles for our ancestors with fire and water,
You changed the fire of Chaldees so it would not burn hot,
You changed Dina in the womb of her mother to a girl,
You changed the staff to a snake before a million eyes,
You changed [Moses’] hand to [leprous] white
and the sea to dry land.
In the desert you turned rock to water,
hard flint to a fountain.

Who would then turn me from a man to woman?
Were I only to have merited this, being so graced by your goodness…

What shall I say? Why cry or be bitter?
If my Father in heaven has decreed upon me
and has maimed me with an immutable deformity,
then I do not wish to remove it.
And the sorrow of the impossible
is a human pain that nothing will cure
and for which no comfort can be found.
So, I will bear and suffer
until I die and wither in the ground.
And since I have learned from the tradition
that we bless both the good and the bitter,
I will bless in a voice, hushed and weak,
Blessed are you, O Lord,
who has not made me a woman.

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Autocorrect Tragedy

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Autocorrect Tragedy

Turkish written with Latin letters half a millennium ago

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In "Türkçe'nin 500 Yıl Önce Latin Harfleriyle Yazılışı" (7/26/16), Abdurrahman Onur Çalışır presents a Turkish text written in Latin letters together with a translation into Latin:

Here's a transcription of the older Turkish, plus a rendering in modern Turkish:

Turca – Ne habar scizum girlerden?
Christianus – Hits nesle bilmezom tsaa dimege.
Turca – Gioldassum varmı tsenumle?
Christianus – Ioch, ialanuz geldum.
Turca – Benumle gelurmitsun?
Christianus – Irachmider tsenum utaghom?
Türk – Ne haber sizin yerlerden?
Hristiyan – Hiçbir şey bilmezim sana demeye.
Türk – Yoldaşın var mı seninle?
Hristiyan – Yok, yalnız geldim.
Türk – Benimle gelir misin?
Hristiyan – Irak(uzak) mıdır senin otağın(evin)?

And here is a translation into English:

[Turk] What news from your country?
[Christian] I know nothing to tell you.
[T] Do you have a companion with you?
[Ch] No, I came alone.
[T] Do you want to come with me?
[Ch] Is your house far?

The translation is by Erika Hitzigrath Gilson, a native of Istanbul, who has taught Turkish for many years at Princeton.  She wrote a dissertation (1981) under Tibor Halasi-Kun at Penn that dealt with a "Transkriptionstext." It appeared as The Turkish grammar of Thomas Vaughan:  Ottoman-Turkish at the end of the XVIIth century according to an English "Transkriptionstext" (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1987).

Erika notes:

As contacts between the Europeans and Turks grew, to facilitate communication texts were prepared by the Europeans using the Latin alphabet to represent Turkic/Turkish. This in no way suggests that ‘Turkish was using the Latin alphabet’. . ..  Older samples [Codex Cumanicus] going back to the 12-13th century exist for other Turkic languages.

Guides to learning Turkish very often included passages, dialogues between a Turk and ‘Christian.’ Some of these were debates on religion, but mostly on daily matters.

Such "transcription texts" are very famous from the middle of the 16th century.  One of the best known is Hieronymus Megiser's Institutionum linguae turcicae libri IV (Leipzig, 1612; over 300 pages), about which Heidi Stein has written extensively.  György Hazai is another specialist on this type of transcription text.   Stanisław Stachowski also worked on such texts for many years.

The oldest surviving Turkish source in Latin characters is one by an Italian called Argenti.  See Milan Adamović, Das Türkische des 16. Jahrhunderts: nach den Aufzeichnungen des Florentiners Filippo Argenti (1533) (Göttingen: Pontus Verlag, 2001).  Older still is the 14th-century Codex Cumanicus, written in the Crimea by Italian merchants and German clergymen, reflecting two distinct Middle Kipchak dialects.

Turks had only one "national script", so to say (the so-called Runic or Old Turkic alphabet), which was given up at the turn of 10th-11th centuries. Otherwise, they wrote their languages in different adopted scripts, as can be seen very clearly from the Old Uighur period when 7 or 8 scripts were in use (of course, not always contemporaneously).  Modern Uyghur has also been written in a dizzying succession of scripts. Therefore, Ottoman in Latin script is only one phenomenon in the history of Turkic languages.

[h.t. Arif Dirlik; thanks to Marcel Erdal, Peter Golden, Peter Zieme, Mehmet Olmez, and Veysel Batmaz]

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“The military is mostly filled with people who genuinely...

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“The military is mostly filled with people who genuinely desire to do the right thing. More Marines receive the Medal of Honor for jumping on grenades than any other action. It’s a culture where officers eat last and everyone shares their water. These people grew up as boy scouts and girl scouts. The whole reason they volunteered was because they wanted to do the right thing. But the right thing is never clear in war. If you shoot too early, an innocent person gets killed. If you shoot too late, you lose a buddy. So a lot of our injuries are moral ones. Most of us come home feeling like we did something wrong. Or we didn’t give enough. Or that our friends gave too much. My best friend in the Marines was a guy named Ronnie Winchester. He was the nicest guy you can imagine. My 22nd birthday was during our officer training course. None of us had slept. We were all starving. We were only getting one ration per day. But Ronnie wanted to give me a memorable birthday. So he put a candle in his brownie and gave it to me. That’s how nice of a guy he was. Ronnie ended up getting killed in Iraq. And if a guy like Ronnie got killed, you can’t help but wonder why you deserve to be alive. Ronnie was 25 years old when he died. He is always going to be 25 years old. I have a wife and kids now. I get to grow old. But Ronnie Winchester is always going to be 25.”

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Uzbekistan’s president may be dying. Here is all my research on Uzbekistan.

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I’ve been studying Uzbekistan for over a decade. As both an MA and a PhD student, I studied the country extensively, and was the first scholar to study Uzbek digital media in depth. Other areas of research are state and dissident politics, terrorism, propaganda, Islamic movements, exile groups, human rights, and the politics of the Uzbek-speaking diaspora. I’ve also written extensively on the massacre of civilians by state forces in Andijon in 2005, and debunked the existence of the terrorist group “Akromiya”, which the government used as a justification for the massacre.

Uzbekistan’s first and only president, Islom Karimov, is said to be gravely ill — either from a stroke or a brain hemmorrhage, depending on the source. This is a crisis moment for Uzbekistan, regardless of the outcome. Never in Uzbekistan’s history has the government released a public statement on the president having a major illness. There is no clear successor, and many rivalries within the government elites. Secrecy and gossip both rule in Uzbekistan, making the situation difficult to understand and probable outcomes difficult to determine.

Below is a full list of everything I’ve written about Uzbekistan so you will have background to understand the current crisis. Uzbeks have already endured decades of routine, quiet, state-sanctioned violence. I hope that a better and safer future lies ahead. Omon bo’ling.


2016 “Recognize the Spies”: Transparency and Political Power in Uzbek Cyberspace. Social Analysis, 59 (4): 50-65

2011    Digital Distrust: Uzbek Cynicism and Solidarity in the Internet Age
American Ethnologist 38 (3): 559-575

2010    A Reporter Without Borders: Internet Politics and State Violence in Uzbekistan
Problems of Post-Communism57 (1): 40-50

2007    Poetry of Witness: Uzbek Identity and the Response to Andijon
Central Asian Survey 26 (3): 317–334

2006    Redefining Religion: Uzbek Atheist Propaganda in Gorbachev-era Uzbekistan Nationalities Papers34 (5): 533-548

2006    Inventing Akromiya:The Role of Uzbek Propagandists in the Andijon Massacre Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization 14 (4): 545–562


2016      “Nations in Transit: Uzbekistan“. Freedom House, Nations in Transit 2015

2014     “Digital Memory and a Massacre: Post-Soviet Uzbek Identity in the Age of Social Media“, Central Asia Program, Uzbekistan Initiative Papers, George Washington University. Co-written with Noah Tucker.

2014     “Nations in Transit: Uzbekistan“. Freedom House, Nations in Transit 2014

2013     “Nations in Transit: Uzbekistan“. Freedom House, Nations in Transit 2013

2012    “Digital Freedom of Expression in Uzbekistan: An example of social control and censorship in the 21st Century”. Published by the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation


Trumpmenbashi: What Central Asia’s spectacular states can tell us about authoritarianism in America (3/22/16) — The Diplomat
Dashcams for Freedom (8/5/15) — Foreign Policy
‘We Are Not Afraid’ (7/14/15) — Foreign Policy
Uzbekistan’s Forgotten Massacre (5/13/15) — The New York Times
Can Minor Languages Make Revolution? (10/1/14) — The Common Reader
The Curse of Stability in Central Asia (2/19/13) — Foreign Policy
An American dream, an exile’s nightmare (6/30/13) — Al Jazeera
Kim Kardashistan: A Violent Dictator’s Daughter on a Quest for Pop Stardom (8/8/12) — The Atlantic
Censorship as Performance Art: Uzbekistan’s Bizarre Wikipedia Ban (2/23/12) — The Atlantic
The Strange Saga of a Made-Up Activist and Her Life—and Death—as a Hoax (12/20/11) — The Atlantic


Here and There with Dave Marash, hour-long interview on Central Asian politics (9/1/15)
This is Hell, “Journalist Sarah Kendzior explains how Uzbeks turned a hashtag against a dictatorship” (7/25/15)
BBC Uzbek, interviewed by Uzbek novelist Hamid Ismailov (6/18/15) (In Uzbek)
Ferghana News, Вашингтон больше не интересуют исследования Центральной Азии (“Washington losing interest in Central Asia:), interviewed (12/17/13)
VOA Uzbek, “As Uzbeks share their pain on the internet, they create their own identity”. In Uzbek. (6/12/13)
BBC Uzbek, “Three years after the tragedy in southern Kyrgyzstan, how are people getting by?” In Uzbek. (6/7/13)
Voice of America, “An American scholar analyzes Central Asia in the age of the internet”(Print interview in Uzbek) (4/14/13) (TV interview in English, original)
Voice of America, “Experts: Central Asia on the threshold of an uncertain future” (in Uzbek) (3/27/13)
The Seattle Spectator, “Speakers Address Election Fraud in Uzbekistan” (1/23/13)
Voice of America Uzbek “Sara Kendzior: O’qimishli fuqarolarga imkon bermaslik – O’zbekiston fojiasi” (“Sarah Kendzior: The tragedy of Uzbekistan is that educated citizens are being denied opportunities”) (12/20/12)
Radio Free Europe, “Gulnara Karimova takes the fight to Twitter” (11/30/12)
BBC Uzbek, “‘Twitter’ da Gulnora Karimova va ‘boshqa’lar bilan dahanaki jangnter”. (“A war of words between Gulnara Karimova and ‘others’ on Twitter”). Interview about the daughter of the dictator of Uzbekistan attacking me on Twitter (11/30/12)
BBC Uzbek, “‘Ўзбекистонда ўз ҳуқуқингни билиш давлатга қарши амал’..ми?” Uzbek-language interview about law and justice in Uzbekistan (6/19/12)
Voice of America, Russian service: “Uzbekistan has banned Wikipedia”. Interview with me on online media censorship in Uzbekistan (2/25/12)


2012     The Uzbek Opposition in Exile: Diaspora and Dissident Politics in the Digital Age
Washington University in Saint Louis, Department of Anthropology.


2006       State Propaganda on Islam in Independent Uzbekistan
Indiana University, Department of Central Eurasian Studies.


2014     “Reclaiming Ma’naviyat: Morality, Criminality and Dissident Politics in Uzbekistan”. In Ethnographies of the State in Central Asia: Performing Politics, ed. Madeleine Reeves, Johan Rasanayagam, Judith Beyer. Indiana University Press.

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From one of the experts on Uzbekistan. Start here before you read anything else.
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