Subject: Speaker Series - Tuya Shagdar - October 13th 5:30 PM, Natsagdorj library

ACMS Speaker Series
 Homeland Associations and Production of Informal Power in Mongolia: the Case of Uvs Nutgiin Zuvlul
Speaker: Tuya Shagdar

5:30 PM, Tuesday - October 13th, 2015, American Corner, Ulaanbaatar public library

             In this article following Gramsci and more recently Steven Lukes I would like to explore issues of power and consent through ethnographic field work carried out in relation to Uvs Province Homeland Associations (Uvs aimgiin nutgiin zuvlul), a non-government organization that operates in the public domain and that has a significant influence on formal politics in Mongolia. As informal political institutions, these organisations are often overlooked as domain where powerful elites draw its legitimacy and mobilize public consent. The issues of Homeland Associations as powerful ideological institutions for political mobilization were explored by few scholars in Mongolian studies, including David Sneath who emphasizes “locality” as an emerging sub-national field for the production of collective identity as opposed to ethnicity based identity. To take this argument one step further I suggest that, if membership in HA can be regarded as evidence of powerful source of political mobilization albeit in “unofficial” public domain, then we may use the examination of these social groups as a way to take a closer look at what Lukes termed the third dimension of power- as opposed to visible and behavioral forms that are manifest in established political institutions and practices. From the anthropological point of view social theory that defines power in terms of domination and resistance presents a number of limitations. This paper argues that power can also be seen in processes designed to mollify various needs of the public in ways that do not fit the domination/resistance model, as the case study in Uvs HA shows. The ethnographic interviews with both local and national elites as well as rural residents reveal that such “informal” political institutions can be locus of reciprocity between elites and non-elite groups and individuals. Following my thesis I will discuss the historical background of the formation of these associations, their structure, recruitment and membership, including the youth organizations, women’s associations under the HA umbrella and finally, the political, economic and cultural spheres upon which these associations exert their influence and how local people intentionally seek out such structures to improve their daily lives. 

Co-Sponsored by the American Cultural and Information Center, Ulaanbaatar 
About the Presenter

  About the Speaker: Tuya Shagdar

She is a doctoral candidate at the department of Anthropology and Archaeology at National University of Mongolia. She’s also a lecturer of courses related to political anthropology, socialism and post-socialism. Her research interests include studies on informal power institutions, political imagination in 20th century Mongolian cinema, maps and pastureland management. During her recruitment at the local department she was a recipient of the Wenner Gren funded Institutional Development Grant for visiting research at University of Cambridge. Her teaching position was funded by the Open Society Academic Fellowship program which enabled her to develop and teach new courses at the department. She was also a recipient of research grant from Swiss Development Agency to study Mongolian Pastoralism and herders’ livelihoods from which she retained interest in maps and management of land in rural areas. Recently, she assisted a team of researchers from Helvetas, a Swiss intercooperation to conduct a fieldwork on local homeland associations. Using the data from her ethnographic fieldwork she extended her academic research into the study of an “informal” political mechanism and study of elites. 

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Thank you to the American Corner and the Natsagdorj Library for sponsoring this event.


The American Center for Mongolian Studies is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting scholarship in Mongolian Studies.

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