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Between Iron and Coal: Enacting Kinship, Bureaucracy and Infrastructure in the Ger Districts of Ulaanbaatar

Fox, Elizabeth; (2019) Between Iron and Coal: Enacting Kinship, Bureaucracy and Infrastructure in the Ger Districts of Ulaanbaatar. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Presenting an urban-focused account of life in contemporary Mongolia, this thesis moves away from the intractability of structure-agency debates to engage with the tensions between obligation and creativity, and form and failure explored through the polysemic metaphors of ‘iron’ and ‘coal’. Based on long-term fieldwork in ger districts on the outskirts of Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, it examines how people make and unmake (or are made and unmade by) relationships, and how the material and linguistic enaction of these relations shapes life on many scales. The thesis commits to developing its theoretical insights out of the ethnographic material. Rather than relying on conceptions of urbanity developed from sedentary societies, it develops a novel perspective on rural-urban migration in Mongolia that draws on historical links between power and movement. Likewise, positioned against the tropes of ‘sedentarised nomads’, the thesis instead traces complex lines of continuity and rupture in the ger districts across social spheres, focusing on: the domestic use of kin terms, the materialisation of networks through the exchange of meat and other resources, the assemblage of the state by bureaucratic technologies in the local welfare office and the ‘hosting’ of bureaucrats in ger district homes. Inspired particularly by approaches to language and hospitality, it examines how words and things can simultaneously be manifestations of obligatory forms and performative enactions of a present-in-the-making. Attending reflexively to language, the thesis also experiments with forms of writing, its theoretical interventions embedded into the very structuring of the chapters. Such experiments in anthropological method are demanded by the nature of the study, attending as it does to iterations of daily life betwixt and between. This thesis thus not only delves ethnographically into the creative tensions between form and practice but also attempts to reconstitute those tensions.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Between Iron and Coal: Enacting Kinship, Bureaucracy and Infrastructure in the Ger Districts of Ulaanbaatar
Event: UCL
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
Keywords: Mongolia, Ger District, Ulaanbaatar
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10068535
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