Accepted Paper:

Pastoralists adapting to development: responses to institutional change and uncertainty in Mongolia  

Author:

Eric Thrift (University of Winnipeg)

Paper Short Abstract:

Mobile pastoralism has been widely acknowledged as constituting a set of practices enabling adaptation to uncertainty and instability. In this paper I discuss evidence of how Mongolian pastoralists may subvert development agendas in order to maintain existing adaptive practices.

Paper long abstract:

Mobile pastoralism has been widely investigated by anthropologists in ecological terms, as a set of practices enabling adaptation to environmental uncertainty and instability. Flexible resource use, social organization, and economic production strategies continue to enable pastoralists' resilience to ecological variation, but also provide a basis for adapting to contemporary social or economic change and uncertainty. Yet development interventions targeting pastoralists may encourage investment in risk-mitigation strategies that reduce these forms of flexibility, introducing reliance on external markets, investments, or coordinating institutions. Drawing on ethnographic research in three regions of Mongolia, I discuss evidence that Mongolian pastoralists often subvert development agendas in order to maintain existing adaptive practices. I suggest that development projects themselves can be viewed as a form of uncertainty, insofar as they offer short-term funding for initiatives whose goals may remain opaque to herders.

Panel P061
Mobile pastoralists and international development: standpoints and engagements