Accepted Paper:

Pastoralists in the city: rural/urban circulation and mobile lifeways in Mongolia  


Eric Thrift (University of Winnipeg)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the relevance of circular migration approaches in analyzing rural/urban pastoral mobilities in Mongolia and Inner Asia.

Paper long abstract:

Pastoral mobilities have been conceptualized in a variety of ways: as regular circulation among seasonal camps, as "flows" within a landscape, as movements that follow or mimic animal migration patterns, or as unplanned responses to unpredictable conditions. While the mobility practices described in any of these categories may seem distinct and separate from rural-to-urban migrations, ethnographic evidence collected with Mongolian herders suggests, to the contrary, that urbanizing flows can also represent an extension of pastoralists' circulatory trajectories into towns and cities. Urban migrations are often neither permanent nor unidirectional, but can offer a tactical means for pastoralists to assimilate urban sites into mobile lifeways. In this context, I explore the relevance of theoretical approaches to circular migration in describing "post-pastoral" mobilities in Mongolia and Inner Asia. Noting the importance of the distinction between circularity and directionality, I underline several ongoing challenges in theorizing pastoral rural/urban circulation, reflecting the complexity of migration patterns and the absence of clear demarcations between "home" and "host".

Panel LL-NAS02
Cultures of mobility in Inner Asia