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Department of Social Anthropology



Recent years have seen increased global policy concern with the management and governance of fresh-water resources. From the perspective of international law, a growing body of multilateral agreements aims to ensure countries have fair access to trans-border rivers. This interdisciplinary project uses ethnographic methods to explore the politics of managing trans-border rivers on water resource frontiers. The river Selenga (Mongolian: Сэлэнгэ мөрөн; Russian: река Селенга; Chinese: 色楞格河), whose management this project will study, runs from northern Mongolia into Russia’s Lake Baikal, and is the object of extensive Chinese economic and political interest. Unhindered by multilateral legal agreements of the sort that govern other trans-border rivers, Mongolia strives for energy security by proposing hydroelectricity plants on tributaries of the Selenga; Russia aims to preserve the unique ecology and cultural significance of Lake Baikal by protecting its water inflow from the Selenga; and China seeks to fuel economic growth in its arid northwest and central agricultural provinces through plans of water-abstraction from Inner Asia. By undertaking ethnographic research in the Selenga drainage basin and elsewhere, this research project aims to yield new anthropological insight into resource nationalism, ideologies of sovereignty, and trans-national infrastructure in an ecologically precarious and cosmo/politically sensitive region. 

Awarding Grant body:ESRC

Dr J Briestley
Research Associate MIASU
Dr Namsaraeva
Senior Research Associate, MIASU
Professor David  Sneath
Caroline Humphrey Professor of Anthropology of Inner Asia
Director Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit (MIASU)
Fellow, Corpus Christi
Office hours: appointment by email