Skills, Social Change and Survival in Postsocialist Northern Mongolia
- Richard Fraser
- 16 May 2018
- Academy Building
2311 GJ Leiden
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.
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