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Accepted Paper:

"In Any Crystalline Land": Geological Liveliness and Poetry as Method in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia  
Jessica Madison Piskata (Oberlin College)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper looks at human/geological relations in Mongolia's capital city as a site of competing notions of life, non-life, and liveliness in the context of mineral extraction. It argues for poetry as a method for engaging with uncanny geological beings both on the ground and ethnographically.

Paper Abstract:

In Mongolia’s capital city of Ulaanbaatar, urban residents experience the affective abilities of geological forms via their effect on the urban atmosphere. This talk focuses on the four mountains that ring the city: Bogd Khan, Chingeltei, Songinokhairkhan, and Bayanzürkh, which assist in causing the atmospheric inversion that traps coal smoke and car exhaust in Ulaanbaatar, causing wintertime conditions that render it one of the most polluted cities in the world. These mountains, like many “worshipped” mountains in Mongolia, are understood as “lively,” neither living nor non-living but capable of intentionality that directly affects the human communities with whom they are in close and intimate relation.

Mongolia’s writers, and poets in particular, have long grappled with poetry as a mode of engagement with these lively and uncanny beings. This paper draws on close readings of poems, collaborative translations, and interviews with poets to demonstrate how poetry and poems can act as enchanting events in which compelling relational vectors with human performers and audiences are forged. These poetic forms create a map of the uncanny topologies of the city, in which subterranean, surface, and atmospheric relations are understood and written and spoken through alternative and poetic forms of knowledge transmission. This paper argues for poetry both as a mode of engagement across great difference and as an ethnographic method well-suited to dealing with uncertainty.

Panel P196
Uncertain methods, elusive lives: exploring the methodological and relational horizons of doing research with more-than-humans
  Session 2 Tuesday 23 July, 2024, -