Accepted paper:

Pastoralism and the making of futures in post-socialist Mongolia


Joseph Bristley

Paper short abstract:

This paper traces how different temporalities of the future emerge in relation to post-socialist Mongolian pastoral practices: poised between an expansive sense of continuity with the past, and the immediacy of the ‘collapsed futures’ (Nielsen 2014) of those forced into herding when socialism ended.

Paper long abstract:

A salient feature of post-socialist Mongolian life is the (re)emergence of subsistence pastoralism as a form of economic activity. Drawing on long-term fieldwork in a rural area of central Mongolia, this paper explores how specific post-socialist temporalities of the future emerge in relation to this way of life. In this paper, I outline a widely held Mongolian ideology of wealth in animals, and analyse how this is amplified through the transmission of animals between different generations. In doing so, I trace a sense of futurity as embedded in a complex seriality linking it to the past: something that contrasts starkly with the future-oriented teleology of socialist modernity (Ssorin-Chaikov 2006). However, this expansive sense of futurity co-exists with the 'collapsed futures' (Nielsen 2014) of those forced into subsistence herding after state socialism ended in the early 1990s. Through this analysis of different perspectives onto pastoralism and the diverse subjects it produces, I reveal the heterogeneity of perceptions of the future in a post-socialist society.

panel P46
Maintaining the future? On post-cold war practices and politics of the future