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PhD defence

Skills, Social Change and Survival in Postsocialist Northern Mongolia

  • Richard Fraser
Wednesday 16 May 2018
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden
Photograph by Richard Fraser

Short summary

This dissertation explores how people living in a remote part of Northern Mongolia have experienced the recent changes, which have occurred since the postsocialist transition. My argument is that while the transition occurred over 20 years ago it is not clear what has come after socialism, or how anthropologists might conceptualise the contradictory and reversible experiences of people during the postsocialist period.

I develop a new framework for elucidating postsocialist change grounded in skilled practice, which envisions the transmission of skills as not only being reproduced between the generations, but also new skills learnt in articulation with change, as well as skills that are lost and adapted to transforming social, economic, and political contexts. By observing changes in skilled practice I argue we are afforded better insight into the polydirectional experiences characteristic of late postsocialist contexts. I contribute to an anthropological understanding of social-cultural change, postsocialist studies, and Inner Asian societies.

I also contribute to theoretical debates in the anthropology of embodied learning and develop an approach, which has broad ethnographic value. My results have implications for policy and development, for while Mongolia is characterised as one of the postsocialist success stories it continues to face challenges such as economic restructuring, environmental degradation, and poverty.

The dissertation shows how people experience these challenges in ways which problematise the assumptions of economists, development agencies, and state actors. It also points to solutions by emphasising the existential importance of skills and suggests that policies should be developed which recognise their value.

Full text summary


  • Prof. P. Pels


PhD defences are free; you do not have to register.

PhD dissertations

PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD candidates are available digitally after the defence through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

Press contact

Maarten Muns, Scientific Communications Adviser, Leiden University
+31 71 527 3282

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