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Department of Social Anthropology

Dr David Sneath: Mongolia Remade: Post-socialist national culture, political economy and cosmopolitics

This collection of new and previously published work by David Sneath, Director of the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit, explores the historical processes that have made and remade Mongolia as it is today: the construction of ethnic and national cultures from the aristocratic orders of the past; the transformations of political economy and ‘nomadic’ pastoralism from pre-revolutionary times to the present-day; and the revival and re- invention of ritual practices that have made Mongolia’s cosmological heritage the subject of new forms of post-socialist politics.

Mongolian Remade brings together paper-length studies of different aspects of Mongolia’s contemporary transformations, starting with a historical introduction and going on to explore a range of topics – from ancient techniques of divination to urbanisation, pastoral land-use, political mobilization and the impacts of increasing levels of household debt. Although firmly focused upon contemporary Mongolia, it draws upon historical themes to illuminate the transformations of society, culture and political economy that have shaped Mongolia’s present.

The work sets out to present a distinctive account of social and cultural change by combining the perspectives of constructionist social theory, political economy and historically-informed anthropology. It offers a critical re-examination of nationalist history to explain the construction of Mongolian public culture and contemporary preoccupations with notions of local and national ‘homelands’ (nutag). It provides an anthropological account of the transformations of political economy that have created new regimes of property, and of debt, for pastoral Mongolia. It makes the case for analysing Mongolian public ritual in terms of ‘cosmopolitics’ – practices that engage the spiritual so that nonhumans become actors in the political arena.