Accepted Papers:

A share in fortune: social (im)mobility, care and personal vitality in Ulaanbaatar  


Elisa Kohl-Garrity

Paper Short Abstract:

Notions of social mobility in neoliberal Ulaanbaatar are inextricably related to claims and expectations over care and respect. The paper explores the generational negotiations over "a share in fortune," contextualize these historically and tackle the interface of ethical formation and governing.

Paper long abstract:

Present-day Ulaanbaatar has become a center of rural-to-urban migration particularly in postsocialist times. The available infrastructure of educational and health facilities as well as the hope for employment have become "central". Social mobility is imagined in terms of personal vitality khiimori, tangible in outer appearance, an individual's share in collective fortune kesig, urban migration and the salvific effects of knowledge. Women in particular face the challenge of "caring for themselves" in order to "care for others" in the "wolf economy." (Ganhuyag 2009, Empson 2011) Moreover, expectations of "care" and "respect" are historically integral to relations of seniority and are projected onto government-citizen/superior-inferior relations. Unemployment, undocumented residence and alcoholism are the three most widespread threats to social mobility. Finally, the 90s have left many persons suffering from disfiguring illnesses of malnutrition like rickets. Their challenge is to overcome the stigma of having "deserved" their condition through Buddhist conceptions of moral causality in the afterlife. Against this background the paper will compare ethnographic narratives of different generations, the challenges of fulfilling relational expectations in contexts of need, the strife for progress and the inherent self-fashioning. Moreover, it will explore the interrelation between the moral impulse in governing others, and the ethical formation in governing the self (Fassin 2012) in these neoliberal contexts.

Panel P132
Social mobility in the neoliberal age: practices, relations, expectations, and desires