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The Vanishing Power Plant

Infrastructure and Ignorance in Peri-urban Ulaanbaatar

Morten Axel Pedersen

In the north-eastern corner of Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar, in the neighbourhood of Uliastai, the livelihood of dozens of households has over recent years been seriously affected by the political and economic reverberations from a large

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Spiritually Enmeshed, Socially Enmeshed

Shamanism and Belonging in Ulaanbaatar

Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko

In the last 20 years, Mongolia’s economy has transformed from a state-run socialist economy with collectivized pastoralism to a highly urbanized market economy experiencing a mining boom. Whereas socialism provided an ideology of progress and

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Anticipating Relations

Beyond Reciprocity and Obligation in the Ger Districts of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Elizabeth Fox

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.

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Elizabeth Turk

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.

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Trans-temporal Hinges

Reflections on an Ethnographic Study of Chinese Infrastructural Projects in Mozambique and Mongolia

Morten Axel Pedersen and Morten Nielsen

Based on two case studies of Chinese infrastructural interventions in Mozambique and in Mongolia, this article introduces the notion of 'trans-temporal hinge' as a heuristic methodological concept that brings together phenomena and events otherwise distributed across time. The authors explore envelopes used when paying Mozambican workers at a construction site in Maputo and roads dividing Chinese oil workers and local nomads in southern and eastern Mongolia as concrete manifestations of trans-temporal hinges. In exploring the temporal properties of these phenomena, we define the trans-temporal hinge as a gathering point in which different temporalities are momentarily assembled. As an analytical scale derived from a specific ethnographic context, we argue that the trans-temporal hinge provides a novel and, quite literally, timely conceptual invention compared with other recent methods of anthropological knowledge production, such as multi-sited fieldwork.

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Scale and Number

Framing an Ideology of Pastoral Plenty in Rural Mongolia

Joseph Bristley

Much recent anthropology reflects on how scales are contested and contingent products of heterogeneous social interactions, not the ‘ontological givens’ (sensu Carr and Lempert) described in earlier scholarship. This article examines the importance of number in the formation of scales of measurement. It does so regarding a pastoral Mongolian scale of livestock-counting based on the number ten thousand, or tüm[en]: a qualitative-cum-quantitative term suggesting plenty and abundance. Drawing on literature on the anthropology of number, and bringing it into dialogue with studies of scale and ideology, this article argues that number is not just a means for calibrating pre-existing scales. Instead, as something endowed with particular qualities and conceptual stability, number can be mobilized to produce ideologically charged scales of measurement.

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Identifying Stone Alignments Created by Adults and Children

A Case Study from a Dukha Reindeer Herder Summer Camp, Khövsgöl Aimag, Mongolia

Madeline E. Mackie, Todd A. Surovell and Matthew O'Brien

Stone alignments are found worldwide in the archaeological record. As with many archaeological phenomena, these features are often assumed to have been constructed by adults. During ethnoarchaeological fieldwork with Dukha reindeer herders in Khövsgöl Aimag, Mongolia, we observed stone alignments, or “playhouses”, that were constructed by children alongside other stone features that had been constructed by adults. In this paper, we compare stone size and frequency within and between adult- and child-constructed rock alignments. We found that features created by children are characterized by numerous stones of comparatively low weight, while adult features typically have fewer and larger stones. Stones within features created by children also exhibit greater variation in size. We attribute these differences to physical limitations of children and the intended functions of stones in each case. This ethnographic case can serve as a guide for the identification of the authorship of stone features in archaeological contexts.

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A Day in the Cadillac

The Work of Hope in Urban Mongolia

Morten Axel Pedersen

Based on fieldwork among Ulaanbaatar's dispossessed youth, this article explores the 'work of hope' in post-socialist Mongolia. Using anthropological writings on presentism and hope as my theoretical point of departure, I show how the concept of hope allows for the potentials of the moment to overflow the possibilities of the present. The article describes a number of lucky-and not so lucky-events that took place during a day spent with a group of young men cruising around the city in an old Cadillac. Hope emerges as a social method for momentarily integrating heterogeneous assemblages otherwise dispersed across the post-socialist city-in this case, people's metaphysical capacities and their economic assets-into chains of creditors and debtors, which are only barely holding together within an overarching context of failure.

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David. G Anderson, Derrick Pritchatt, Judith Nordby, Diane Nelson and David N. Collins

Petra Rethmann, Tundra Passages: History and Gender in the Russian Far East

Stephen Kotkin and Bruce Elleman, eds, Mongolia in the Twentieth Century: Landlocked Cosmopolitan

Frederick Nixson, Bat Suvd, Puntsagdash Luvsandorj and Bernard Walters, eds, The Mongolian Economy: A Manual of Applied Economics for a Country in Transition

Edward J. Vajda, Yeniseian Peoples and Languages. A History of Yeniseian Studies, with an Annotated Bibliography

Wieland Hintzsche, Thomas Nickol and Ol’ga Vladimirovna Novochatko, eds, Georg Wilhelm Steller: Briefe und Dokumente, 1740

Wieland Hintzsche, ed., Georg Wilhelm Steller, Stepan Krašeninnikov, Johann Eberhard Fischer: Reisetagebücher, 1735 bis 1743

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Russia's Frozen Frontier: A History of Siberia and the Russian Far East, 1581–1991: Alan Wood Ryan Tucker Jones

The Raven's Gift: A Scientist, a Shaman, and Their Remarkable Journey through the Siberian Wilderness: Jon Turk; On the Run in Siberia: Rane Willerslev Alexander D. King

Frontier Encounters: Knowledge and Practice at the Russian, Chinese and Mongolian Border: Frank Billé, Grégory Delaplace, and Caroline Humphrey Laura Siragusa

Indigenous People and Demography: The Complex Relation between Identity and Statistics: Per Axelsson and Peter Sköld, eds. Anna Bara

Aboriginal Health in Canada: Historical, Cultural and Epidemiological Perspectives, 2nd edition: James D. Waldram, D. Ann Herring, and T. Kue Young Zoe Todd

Books Received for Review