Accepted paper:

Pastoralist Professionals: the positive evaluation of pastoral nomadism in Mongolia

Authors:

Marissa Smith

Paper short abstract:

Many anthropological studies of pastoral nomadism have emphasized its flexibility and endurance thanks to rather than in spite of its combination with other forms of production and labor. While most of these studies have attended to the combination of pastoral nomadism and settled agriculture as well as marketing and wage labor, this paper discusses findings from an ethnographic study of involvement in pastoral nomadism among professional academics and engineers in and around Erdenet, Mongolia, home to Mongolia’s largest industrial complex, the Erdenet Mining Corporation. Particularly, I describe how involvement in pastoral nomadism in Mongolia is only in some contexts associated with low social status, and the implications of this for the near future of pastoral nomadism in Mongolia. While herders do often come to the city to participate in har bor ajil, “black-brown work” or heavy labor that is negatively evaluated, herders also include university students, engineers, politicians and other highly educated professionals. Furthermore, when herders do come to the city they are often assisted by relatives and friends who are already well established there and who themselves often travel to the countryside to participate in nomadic pastoralism.

Paper long abstract:

Many anthropological studies of pastoral nomadism have emphasized its flexibility and endurance thanks to rather than in spite of its combination with other forms of production and labor. While most of these studies have attended to the combination of pastoral nomadism and settled agriculture as well as marketing and wage labor, this paper discusses findings from an ethnographic study of involvement in pastoral nomadism among professional academics and engineers in and around Erdenet, Mongolia, home to Mongolia's largest industrial complex, the Erdenet Mining Corporation. Particularly, I describe how involvement in pastoral nomadism in Mongolia is only in some contexts associated with low social status, and the implications of this for the near future of pastoral nomadism in Mongolia. While herders do often come to the city to participate in har bor ajil, "black-brown work" or heavy labor that is negatively evaluated, herders also include university students, engineers, politicians and other highly educated professionals. Furthermore, when herders do come to the city they are often assisted by relatives and friends who are already well established there and who themselves often travel to the countryside to participate in nomadic pastoralism.

panel MMM09
The emerging world of pastoralists and nomads (IUAES Commission on Nomadic Peoples)