Accepted paper:

The ethics of urban fluctuation in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia


Rebekah Plueckhahn (University of Melbourne)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses how changing urban landscapes form part of ethical worldbuilding among residents in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Here, material elements become relational tools implicating self and others. I will discuss the implications of this for understanding ethics in Mongolia.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing from ethnography conducted in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, this paper discusses the ways in which material urban environments form a part of ethical worldbuilding (Zigon 2014) among residents caught in suspended urban redevelopment schemes. Operating within conflicting temporalities - including forms of temporal delay wrought by real estate and construction time frames, and types of 'collapsed futures' (Nielsen 2014) that have come about due to failures to build - this paper discusses the ways in which the materiality of the surrounding environment becomes a crucial element in attempting to grow types of personal stakes in the city. Old buildings, poured concrete bases, storage containers, dusty streets and the home itself become implicated within relational perspective-making (Wagner 2018) between the landscape, self and other. Here, multiple value regimes emerge around the formulation of real-estate assets in times of decline. This paper will discuss how this materiality is integral to ethical perspectives emerging in urban Mongolia, where the real estate asset one wants to encourage becomes constitutive of a type of preferred moral urban citizenship in a time of volatility, unpredictability and fluctuating urban growth.

panel P28
Stuff of substance: valuing the tangible in transient states