This panel will explore how "cultures of mobility" inform flows of people, resources, and ideas in Mongolia and Inner Asia.
This panel will explore how "cultures of mobility" inform flows of people, resources, and ideas in Inner Asia. The history of this region has often been written, drawing on Owen Lattimore's formulation, as one of interaction along nomadic/sedentary frontiers. Nonetheless, the contemporary experience of Inner Asian mobile pastoralists frequently ignores boundaries demarcating the "mobile" from the "sedentary". Pastoralists engage, for example, in a fluid range of economic and social activities, which may bring them into towns and cities for extended periods; they may practice circular migration involving regular stays with both urban and rural kin; and they may observe complex patterns of livestock ownership and management that traverse boundaries between "pastoral" and "urban" sites. Such flows, we suggest, are indicative of mobile lifeways that can extend into urban/settled domains -- or even incorporate such domains as their own -- rather than merely operating at their margins or frontiers. In this light, we hope to interrogate socio-economic, political, and demographic categories that are predicated on a presence or lack of mobility: "(mobile) pastoralists", "migrants", "urban residents", and the like. Seeking more ethnographically accurate alternatives to these terminologies, we intend to ask how better to acknowledge the diversity of standpoints within shared cultures of mobility -- encompassing the positionings of principally urban actors, and acknowledging the shifts involved in circular migration, for example -- in both theoretical and applied terms.