In the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, known as ger districts, a growing number of rural-to-urban migrants live without access to formal urban infrastructure or regular
incomes. Under these challenging material conditions, personal networks take
precedence, providing and regulating access to employment and meat provisioning.
Looking beyond discussions of anticipation among migrants focusing on the goals
of migration, I interrogate the role of anticipation in the making and maintaining of
relational networks. Existing analyses of such networks in Mongolia have generally
relied on idioms of reciprocity or obligation. Focusing instead on material transfers
and transactions among ger district residents reveals such networks to be more
ambiguous and prone to failure than notions of reciprocity or obligation can easily
accommodate. This article argues that the productive contradiction within the
concept of anticipation – encompassing both expectative waiting and pre-emptive
action – can illuminate new aspects of these relations and networks in action.