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Moving Beyond Post-Socialist Trajectories: Flexibility and Adaptability Among Pastoralists in Western Mongolia 

Peter Finke

Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies, University of Zurich

Pastoralists in Mongolia have gone through a number of radical changes that have shaped their livelihoods in multiple ways. This began with the establishment of a socialist planned economy during the late 1950s but did not end with the dismantling of the latter some 30 years later. And while much of the 1990s could be described as a gradual, and often painful, adaptation to the world of post-socialist restructuring, recent years have shown that pastoralists are very flexible in their dealing with a great variety of political, ecological as well as macro-economic challenges.

Building on 25 years of research in the western parts of Mongolia this paper sets out to the follow the on-going changes and adaptations among pastoralists – as well as some non-pastoralists – in the region, in their majority members of the Kazak minority. Apart from the de-collectivization process and the establishment of a market-like economy the situation has in recent years been shaped by natural disasters on the one hand, and the on-going out-migration to Kazakstan on the other. People have responded to this with an amazing flexibility, regarding their economic as well as social strategies (including the option to leave the country or to come back).

While much of this reads like, and indeed is the outcome of, local processes of adaptation, Kazaks are at the same time closely interwoven into a nation state, where they form the largest and most distinct minority, with the situation in a neighbouring state bearing their name and inviting them for resettlement, and a global world of geo-political challenges and economic opportunities.


October 19, 2016
17.45 -19.15


Internationales Kolleg Morphomata
Weyertal 59
50937 Köln