RAI Research in Progress: Joseph Bristley
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RAI Research in Progress: Joseph Bristley

RAI Research in Progress: Joseph Bristley

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The Royal Anthropological Institute

50 Fitzroy Street

London, United Kingdom

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Animal Economics: exchange and personhood in pastoral Mongolia

Joseph Bristley, UCL, joseph.bristley.10@ucl.ac.uk 

In pastoral Mongolia a strongly held ideology of abundance accentuates the importance of owning lots of animals, something that amplifies a wider sense of plenty running through a number of registers in Mongolian social life. Whilst valued, however, this ideology is also shadowed by a number of ‘undersides’ (Ferme 2001) – haunted by the possibility of its own failure, owing to a range of factors including the possibility of natural disasters, overgrazing, and general lack of state support.

Drawing on long-term fieldwork in a rural district in central Mongolia, I explore the political and economic significance of the unfolding tensions between an idealised view of productivity and its underside as they are played out in everyday life. In contrast to scholarship primarily focusing on human-animal relations (Fijn 2011), I explore how these relations are produced by specific economic contexts, some of which exist ‘beyond the human’ (Kohn 2013). In doing so, I shed light on the formation of a precarious sense of value rooted in the possession of livestock; and how this is conducive to the production of certain kinds of people.

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The Royal Anthropological Institute

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