The Gobi is not a consensual idea. It is a contrarian stage of desire and repulsion, of mobility and
obstruction. Forged in the negative space of sea, sky, and land, the material Gobi has long been a membrane of past
and the present; so much sand blowing and settling atop the longue durée of its ecology. How were those who sought to
overcome the absence that marks its vast topography—whether Buddhist philosophers or paleontologists, prophets or botanists, tantric hermits or archaeologists—made anew in time by working with and through the planes of its geologic media? This talk considers excavatory logics and Gobi-bounded knowledge that led to radical new models of planetary thinking across Eurasia and North America during the long nineteenth century.
Matthew King is Associate Professor in Transnational Buddhism in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Riverside. He also currently serves as Director of Asian Studies. He is interested in the social history of knowledge along the Tibet-Mongol interface during the late-and post-imperial periods. From that perspective, he explores the Eurasianist circulation of science, nationalism, and the humanities. He has contributed chapters to several volumes dedicated to Buddhism in Inner Asia. His articles appear in The Journal of the American Academy of Religion, History and Anthropology, Himalaya, The Journal of Religion and Violence, The Oxford Handbooks in Religion, Rocznik Orientalistyczny, and the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. His most recent book is Ocean of Milk, Ocean of Blood: A Mongolian Monk in the Ruins of the Qing Empire (2019) and is published by Columbia University Press.