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Accepted Paper:

Disruptions of a Boundless Homeland: Territorialization and Inversion in the Mongolian Taiga  
Björn Reichhardt (University of Fribourg)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how border making processes materialize controversial conservation practices in the Western Taiga in northern Mongolia. By drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among reindeer herders, it discusses how territorialization turns the boundless Taiga landscape into an "abstract space."

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I explore how border making processes materialize controversial conservation practices in the Western Taiga region in northernmost Mongolia. I focus on ethnographic fieldwork undertaken among the Tsaatan reindeer herding community and draw on indigenous perceptions of the Taiga landscape as a boundless homeland (Pedersen 2009). To the Tsaatan, the Taiga is a highly complex, heterogenous, and animate environment that embraces all living entities (Küçüküstel 2021) such as spirits, humans, and non-human animals. This boundless landscape is tied together through paths and bonds invigorated through movement. Since the establishment of the Tengis-Shishged National Park, however, Tsaatan households have to face severe challenges. Profound conservationist interferences such as the division of the Taiga into conservation zones through borders cuts the ties that are essential to this more-than-human environment: it is transformed into an “abstract space”, following a linear and homogenous vision of the land that opposes how environments are experienced by the people who inhabit them (Vandergeest and Peluso 1995). In fact, through their daily interaction with the landscape, reindeer herders experience ecological disturbances such as decreasing pasture quality and herd health, which they associate with the national park borders. In order to critically reflect on how these borders disrupt the landscape, I discuss how processes of territorialization resemble what Ingold (2009, 29) has called the “logic of inversion”, which “turn[s] the pathways along which life is lived into boundaries within which it is enclosed.”

Panel P008a
The landscape turn in conservation: non-western perspectives and anthropological insights