The Politics of Ritual Form(ation) in Contemporary Mongolia

in Social Analysis
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Elizabeth Turk Lecturer, Columbia University, USA eht24@cam.ac.uk

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Abstract

Engaging Humphrey and Laidlaw's ‘archetypal actions of ritual’, this article explores the thing-like and seemingly externally derived quality of ritualized action in ‘alternative’ medical settings in Mongolia. The cultural rupture of the Soviet era presents a case study in which the continuity of ritualized action cannot be assumed in ritual making during the post-1990 (re)construction of national culture. Elements derived from shared public knowledge have become constituted in ritual more recently and frequently than can be accounted for by an aperture-like model, where previously external elements gradually filtered in. Building on regional literature concerning loss of ritual form and recent syncretic innovation, I suggest that the affordances of form—mobility, iterability, and malleability—capture the politics inherent in the reordering of associations in the making of ritual.

Contributor Notes

Elizabeth Turk is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar and Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University. She received her PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge in 2018. Her research focuses on nature-based and ‘alternative’ medicine in contemporary Mongolia, exploring themes in both medical and environmental anthropology. She is in the process of preparing her first manuscript, which explores the articulation of healing practices with political economy and social progressivist discourses. In 2020, she will begin post-doctoral research at Cambridge on a project entitled “Mongolian Cosmopolitical Heritage: Tracing Divergent Healing Practices across the Chinese-Mongolian Border,” funded by the UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council. E-mail: eht24@cam.ac.uk

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