Two Upcoming Campus Talks (and Following Up On A Busy Summer)

I’ve been meaning to write some updates on my summer research project on international research collaboration in Mongolia — I expect to do that in the next week or two. For now, my attention is focused on preparing for two upcoming campus talks. I will also be presenting at the American Anthropological Association Meetings November 16-20 — more on that soon as well!

The first talk is at the University of Wyoming:

Shifting Scales of Belonging: Old and New Economic Intimacies of the 2016 Commodities Bust in Mongolia and Wyoming

October 28th, 4:10 PM, Room 150, Anthropology Building (12th and Lewis Street), University of Wyoming

This talk concerns aspects of the 2016 global commodities bust related to shifting forms of belonging that distinguish and relate producers and consumers in regions and nations that are heavily involved in both natural resource production and consumption, specifically in Mongolia and the United States. In both countries, producers have accepted and continued to reinforce this categorization even while being blamed for the bust by those defined as consumers. However, while doing so, they also often align themselves with various local, regional, national, and international communities of natural resource product producers, consumers, and producer-consumers. While much anthropological work on natural resource production has focused on the position of local communities, particular corporations, and networks of investors in the global economies orchestrated by others (for instance, international financial institutions and high level state-corporate partnerships), this paper explores how producers define their production as an act of belonging at multiple scales and how this belonging is realized and countered, even in a time of declining production and investment by those often understood by anthropologists to ultimately define political economies at all scales.

The second will be at University of California, Berkeley (Flyer here):

Neighbors and Brothers: Mongolian-Russian Relations As Negotiated On Mongolian Terms
Introduced by
Edward W. Walker, Slavic and East European Studies, UC BerkeleyTuesday, November 29, 2016, 4:00 pmIEAS Conference Room, 180 Doe Library, UC Berkeley
While often associated with Stalin’s positioning of Russians as “older brothers” to other nationalities, in the context of Mongolian-Russian relations the nature of “the brotherhood of nations” has been considerably more complex. Mongolian practices of siblingship distinguish between elder and younger, but are considerably more ambiguous in hierarchical terms than other relations involving distinctions of age. In this context, the positioning of Russians and Mongolians as siblings generally implies not the leadership of one elder sibling over a younger one, but is often used to emphasize mutual obligations and contested claims shared between those whose roles as “leader” and “follower” shift radically over the course of lifetimes in the context of who is lending aid, incorporating whom into whose projects, or slackening the intensity of such relationships.
Though the hegemonizing tendencies of great powers has often been the focus of research on the region, the definition of nationality in the context of the Eastern Bloc (including its Asian member nations) also created space for the recognition of distinctive practices, knowledge, and values while expecting engagement with those of other nationalities’. Based largely on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Mongolia since 2006, mostly in the Mongolian-Russian mining city of Erdenet, this talk examines how “brotherhood” is a highly valued and highly contested relation through which negotiations of ownership, inheritance, and moral obligation in ongoing Mongolian-Russian relations, both at the scales of international relations and interpersonal intimacies, are conducted on very Mongolian terms while always emphasizing distinctions between nationalities.
This talk is part of a series organized by the Mongolia Initiative at Berkeley’s Institute of East Asian Studies.

1 Comment

  1. A recording of the talk at Berkeley is available now, with others from the series, on the Mongolia Initiative channel:

    The next talk in the Mongolia Initiative series is:

    Stabilizing Quality in Inner Mongolian Milk
    Lecture: Institute of East Asian Studies: Mongolia Initiative | January 31 | 4 p.m. | 180 Doe Library

    Moderator: Franck Bille, Visiting Scholar, UC Berkeley Mongolia Initiative

    Speaker/Performer: Megan Tracy, Sociology and Anthropology James Madison University

    Sponsors: Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS), UC Berkeley Mongolia Initiative

    In this paper, I examine how actors attempt to transfer material and symbolic value and transfer notions of “human quality” across other notions of quality, such as product quality and the presumed caliber of particular places where production occurs. This transference of quality is embedded, for example, in notions that ethnic Mongolians are pre-disposed to produce a quality dairy product. I consider the manner in which various activities—such as milking cows, producing indigenous foods, and advertising— seek to stabilize notions of quality (as attached to particular objects and practices) via claims to notions of quality that are often presumed by actors to be stable and based on measurable characteristics that go into building a quality “X”—no matter what that X might be. In this exploration, I revisit notions of human quality—a focus of anthropological attention—and bring it into dialogue with work like Callon’s on how objects are qualified. These discussions are grounded in data collected within China’s domestic dairy industry in Inner Mongolia both before and after the industry’s epic product safety scandals.

    Hope to see you there!


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