Subject: This Month in Mongolian Studies - April 2018

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April 2018
In this Issue:

ACMS Announcements 

ACMS Sponsored Programs and Events

Position Openings

Calls for Papers, Conferences, and Workshops

Research Fellowships, Scholarships and Grants

Other News and Events

Recent Publications

This Month in Mongolian Studies is a monthly listing of selected academic activities, resources and other material related to Mongolia. This list is based on information the ACMS has received and is presented as a service to its members. If you would like to submit information to be included in next month's issue please contact the ACMS at

This publication is supported in part by memberships.  Please consider becoming a member of the ACMS, or renewing your membership by visiting our website at Thank you!
ACMS Announcements, News and Media References


ACMS Annual Board Meeting (1 PM)

ACMS Board President Bill Fitzhugh chaired the annual ACMS Board meeting, beginning at 1 PM in the home of ACMS Treasurer Meredith Giordano.

The agenda included introductions for new Mongolia Country Director Tricia Turbold and new Executive Director Jonathan Addleton, followed by a presentation of the ACMS Annual Report for 2017. Others items covered include ACMS program updates for both Ulaanbaatar and the US; nominations for a New Secretary and At-Large Board Member; and a detailed budget review.  

Turnout was excellent, including Board President Bill Fitzhugh (Smithsonian Institute); Vice President Paula DePriest (Smithsonian Institute); Treasurer Meredith Giordano (Treasurer); Caverlee Cary (University of California-Berkeley) and Brian Hammer (SIT).

Several other board members attended via call-in including Vice President Charles Krusekopf (Royal Rhodes University); Maria Fernandez-Giminez (Colorado State University); Mark Greenberg (Western Washington University); Nancy Nix (University of Alaska-Anchorage); Julian Dierkes (University of British Columbia) and At-Large Board Member Layton Croft.

The current list of institutional ACMS board members stands at 32.  Individual memberships exceed 200 including 113 "regular" members and 93 "student" members.  Most individual members are from Mongolia and the United States though a number of other countries are also represented.

The 2017 ACMS Annual Report is now being finalized and will be circulated to all ACMS members during the coming weeks, providing a useful overview of ACMS activities during the past year.

ACMS Annual General Meeting (5 PM)

As highlighted in recent issues of This Month in Mongolia Studies, the ACMS Annual General Meeting (AGM) was scheduled to take place beginning at 5 PM on Friday, March 23, 2018 in the home of ACMS Treasurer Meredith Giordano. The agenda mirrored that of the annual Board Meeting noted above.

While hoping that additional ACMS members attending the nearby Association of Asian Studies meeting might also be able to join in the AGM, like last year this year's attendance was very sparse.  We welcome suggestions on how attendance for this annual meeting might be improved in the future.

The 2017 ACMS Annual Report will be circulated later this spring to the entire ACMS membership, providing additional details on ACMS activities during 2017 as well as programs anticipated for 2018. Minutes from the annual board meeting are also available to the membership on request.

Mongolian Embassy Reception (6:30 PM)

The Mongolian Embassy in Washington, DC very kindly hosted a reception on the evening of Friday, March 23 to honor two institutions that do so much to raise awareness about Mongolia among universities and beyond in the United States -- ACMS and the Mongolia Society. The evening was a great success, involving dozens of "friends of Mongolia" including many ACMS members. Many thanks to the Mongolian Embassy for hosting this wonderful event!



Hill Briefing (9 AM)

ACMS Executive Director Jonathan Addleton, joined by ACMS Country Director Tricia Turbold, briefed approximately twenty Congressional staffers on Mongolia on the morning of Friday, March 23. The event was sponsored by the Congressional Mongolian Caucus with support from ACMS and the Mongolian Embassy.

The briefing included a summary of ACMS programs in Mongolia as well as historic connections between the United States and Mongolia, with a special emphasis on interactions involving Congress over the years. The session also included a question-and-answer time, highlighting renewed interest in Congress on Mongolia.

The Congressional Mongolian Caucus is bipartisan and invitations to attend were extended by Dina Titus (Democratic -- First District, Nevada) and Don Young (Republican -- At Large, Alaska)

Mongolia Society Foreign Policy Panel (10:30 AM)

ACMS was also represented in a panel hosted by the Mongolia Society at the Smithsonian Institute as part of Mongolia Society's annual General Meeting on the morning of Friday, March 23. Speakers included Mongolia Society President Alicia Campi and retired US Foriegn Service Officer Brian Goldbeck wbo served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Ulaanbaatar during President Bush's historic visit to Mongolia in 2015.

Several current or former ambassadors from both Mongolia (Ts. Batbayar and Sh. Battsetseg) and the United States (Pamela Slutz and Jonathan Addleton) also gave presentations. At the Mongolia Society AGM earlier the same day, it was also announced that former US Ambassador to Mongolia Pamela Slutz will head the Mongolia Society beginning in March 2019, when Alicia Campi steps down. 



ACMS media references last month included Executive Director Jonathan Addleton's op-ed entitled "Mongolia's Moment? A Surprisingly Logical Choice to Host a Trump-Kim Summit," highlighting reasons why Ulaanbaatar would be a good location for potential meetings involving the United States and North Korea. Posted on GlobalAtlanta (March 16), the article was shared or retweeted in dozens of places in both the US and Mongolia.

Former ACMS Vice President Julian Dierkes along with University of British Columbia colleague and PhD student Mendee Jargalsaikhan posted an article in The Diplomat (March 10) making the same case and affirming the unique diplomatic role that a neutral Mongolia can play in faclitating discussions among and between third counries.

ACMS Cultural Heritage Coordinator Julia Clark wrote an article titled "Climate Change and Looters Threaten the Archeology of Mongolia" that was published on The Conversation (March 11) and circulated widely on the internet on facebook and tweeter thereafter.

Both ACMS and ACMS Cultural Heritage Coordinator Julia Clark were also featured in an article entitled "Galloping in from Outer Mongolia" posted by Flinders University in Australia (March 6), the university where Julia is currently located for the first half of this year.

ACMS Sponsored Programs and Events


The American Center for Mongolian Studies’ (ACMS) Cultural Heritage Program (CHP) is organizing a conference scheduled to take place on June 15, 2018 in Ulaanbaatar that highlights Henry Luce Foundation-sponsored Cultural Heritage activities and other cultural heritage-related topics in Mongolia.

Past CHP/Luce Fellows are especially encouraged to participate. We are seeking both presentations and posters (in English) on topics related to Mongolian cultural heritage, not only from traditional disciplines such as anthropology, archaeology and history but also from other disciplines not traditionally associated with cultural heritage themes such as biology, economics, politics, ecology, medicine and others. All papers must have a clear cultural heritage linkage.  Participation is free and does not involve a registration fee.

To register as a presenter, please send a 100-200 word abstract in English to Julia at 
or Tuvshee at


The American Center for Mongolian Studies (ACMS) invites students and scholars to enroll in an eight week Intensive Mongolian Language Program in Ulaanbaatar from June 11 to August 10, 2018. The intermediate level program entails 8 weeks of intensive Mongolian language study over a 9-week period, equivalent to approximately 9 semester credit hours.  The course is taught by experienced Mongolian language teachers and the aim is to provide students with an opportunity to strengthen their communcate competence through systematic kmprovement of reading, writing, listening and speaking skills.

Tuition and fees cost $2,000, covering tuition, course materials, admission to museums and events, and local transportation to course-required activities. Students are responsible for their own living and travel arrangements and expenses, which typically include $1,000 for housing; $1,000 for food and incidentals; and $2,500 for round trip travel from the US. The application deadline is April 1, 2018, with tuition payments due on May 1, 2018.

All applicants must have a self-assessed or officially assessed Intermediate or greater level of proficiency in Mongolian and at least 1 year experience studying Mongolian or equivalent.  For more details, see the ACMS website.  Feel free to also contact ACMS country director Tricia Turnbold: 

Apply online here.



Anne-Sophie Pratte: "Mapping theLand and Making Borders: A Study of Mongolian Cartography from the Late 18th to the Early 20thth Century

5:30 PM on Tuesday, April 3 at the American Corner, Ulaanbaatar Public Library

From the late 18th to the early 20th century, nine local maps of the Üizen banner (a part of the modern day Dornod aimag) were drawn by local Mongol administrators, who were tasked with mapping each administrative region of Mongolia at regular intervals throughout the Manchu era. More than seven hundred of these maps are now preserved at the National Library, the National Archives of Mongolia, and various libraries in the world, along with thousands of pages documenting the mapping policies, techniques, and execution.

While these unique images give considerable insight into local actors’ representation and organization of their land, they also raise several questions: why were they produced on such a large scale, and what do the map-making documents tell us about the Mongol local administration and its relationship with the central state? More broadly, how are they tied to frontier administration and geopolitics?

This paper examines three main mapping projects initiated by the Manchu state in 1805, 1864, and 1890, and focuses on the tensions that arose between the central state and the Mongol local actors who were put in charge of drawing the maps and setting boundary-markers (oboos) between banners.

Relying on more than eight months of archival work in Mongolia, China, and Europe, this study shows that while the mapping policies were designed by the Qing state to implement new ideologies of territorial organization stemming from a changing geopolitical context, they elicited significant resistance from the local leaders who advocated for the preservation of existing practices of land-use and territorial administration in Mongolia.

Anne-Sophie Pratte is a fourth year PhD candidate in Inner Asian and Altaic Studies at Harvard University. She is originally from the Montréal area in Québec, Canada, where she completed her undergrad studies and earned a Master’s degree in East Asian Studies at McGill University. Her current PhD dissertation research examines the impacts of Qing rule on Mongolian environment and local society with a focus on cartography and territorial organization. She is currently based in Ulaanbaatar where she is conducting archival work for the 2017-2018 academic year.


Daniel Miller:  Where's the Beef? Adapting Mongolian Cattle Raising Practices to Take
Advantage of Growing Markets for Beef"

5:30 PM on Tuesday, March 20 at the American Corner, Ulaanbaatar Public Library

This presentation focused on opportunities for Mongolia to supply beef to markets in China, Russia and elsewhere whil also significantly strengthening its own domestic beef industry.  Mongolians have been raising cattle for thousands of years and the country's cattle population (approximately four million including yaks) exceeds its human population (approximately three million). Mongolia's vast grasslands have the potential to develop organic, grass-fed, natural beef, thus commanding a higher price among discerning consumers who want healthier food products. While prospects for growth are good, Mongolia's beef cattle industry also faces many challenges. This presentation discussed obstacles and opportunities for producing higher quality beef in Mongolia, with a view toward responding to growing domestic and export market demand for quality beef.

Daniel Miller grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal, where he worked with yak herders. Returning to the US, he worked as a cowboy on large cattle ranches in Montana and studied rangeland ecologist at the University of Montana. He has published numerous scientific articles and has worked in Afghanisan, Bhutan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and elsewhere for the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, UNDP, FAO, and USAID as well as NGOs such as the Wildlife Conservation Society and World Wildlife Fund. He first visited Mongolia as an ADB consultant in 1992, followed by muliple other trips including a assignment as Acting USAID Development Advisor in the U.S. Embassy in 2015. He now works as a livestock specialist for Mercy Corps/Mongolia. An accomplished photographer, he recently published a coffee-table book of black and white photos of Tibetan nomads in both English and Mongolian.
Position Openings


The University of Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Germany invites applications for two 3-year PhD positions in the European Research Council Project Entangled Parliamentarisms: Constitutional Practices in Russia, Ukraine, China, and Mongolia, 1905–2005.” One PhD candidate will explore the history of Ukrainian parliamentarism from the participation of Ukrainian representatives in the State Duma of the Russian Empire to the 2004 Constitutional Reform. The other PhD candidate will focus on the history of the concept of khural and its institutional forms in Mongolia and the Russian Federation (Buryatia, Kalmykia, and Tuva).

The project Entangled Parliamentarisms: Constitutional Practices in Russia, Ukraine, China, and Mongolia, 1905–2005 addresses the entangled histories of deliberative decision making, political representation, and constitutionalism on the territories of the former Russian and Qing Empires and focuses on the cases of Russia, Ukraine, China, and Mongolia between 1905 and 2005.

Employing the perspectives of New Imperial History and Transcultural Studies, the project looks beyond narrow state-centered approaches and takes advantage of multidisciplinary methodology involving both history and political science. The project traces parliamentary developments, interactions among imperial and post-imperial intellectuals and their engagement in global discussions, shared imperial legacies, mutual borrowings and references, imperial and post-imperial political practices, and translatability of concepts. It seeks to refute the stereotypes about inclinations towards democracy in particular national contexts by tracing relevant transnational practices and interactions and by providing a nuanced political and intellectual history of parliamentarism.

The University of Heidelberg will employ both PhD candidates for three years (gross monthly salary is approximately 2,475 EUR) and sponsor two months of archival fieldwork in Ukraine and Mongolia, respectively. Prospective candidates should hold an MA or equivalent in history or a related field and have excellent knowledge of English (TOEFL 90 or IELTS 7), Ukrainian or Mongolian, respectively, and Russian. The positions are scheduled to start on October 1, 2018.

Candidates should submit the following documents electronically as a single PDF-file to by May 31, 2018: (1) cover letter; (2) CV; (3) certificate of MA or equivalent; (4) transcript of records; (5) certificate of proficiency in English (TOEFL or IELTS); and (6) short essay (750–1000 words without references) explaining how  research on the proposed topic will be conducted.

The CV and essay must be written in English. Other documents can be submitted in English, Ukrainian, Russian, or German. If completion of the MA degree is expected in 2018, a transcript of records will suffice. Please attach any peer-reviewed publications as PDF copies to the application (not mandatory). 

Research Fellowships, Scholarships and Grants

Many thanks to those submitting applications for the summer 2018 ACMS Summer Fellowship Program. The applications are now being reviewed, with an announcement on awardees anticipated soon.

Other News and Events


The University of Washington has announce its second symposium on the theme "The Mongol Empire and its Legacy".  The event is scheduled to take place in Thompson Hall Room 317 at the University of Washington, beginning at 1:30 PM on Friday, April 6, 2018.

Papers and speakers scheduled at part of the meeting include:
-- “Four Paradigms in the Study of the Mongol Empire" (Professor Hodong Kim, Department of Asian History, Seoul National University)
-- “Pomp, Dress, and Circumstance: Robing at Khubilai’s Court, 1260-1294” (Professor Eiren Shea, Department of Art and Art History, Grinnell College
-- “The Shape of the World: Universal History under the Mongols” (Professor Stefan Kamola, Department of History, Eastern Connecticut State University)

Symposium organizers at the University of Washington include Professor Matthew Mosca (History & Jackson School of International Studies) and Professor Joel Walker (History); support comes from several units and departments at the University of Washington including the Art History Program; Center for Korea Studies; China Studies Program; Department of History; Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization; Ellison Center for Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies; Global Studies Center; Middle East Center; and Simpson Center for the Humanities



Nomad Science is offering an opportunity for students and others interested in Mongolia to travel to Mongolia next summer as part of an international interdisciplinary research team.  No prior experience is necessary; individuals from all ages, academic backgrounds and nationalities are encouraged to apply.

Participants will support fieldwork related to archaeology, anthropology, geology, botany, ecology and related disciplines, with a view toward producing high quality data-driven research while traveling in one of the most scenic and remote regions of the world. In addition to investigating and helping to conserve Mongolia's unique natural and cultural heritage, the summer experience also includes a Wilderness First Responder Certification option.

See the Nomad Science website for further information:


The library at Western Washington University (WWU) recently posted an excellent introduction, written by Professor Henry G. Schwarz, on the history and content of its Mongolian language collection. Here are some highlights from that introduction:  

At the time of its establishment in 1971, WWU's Center for East Asian Studies developed programs for the two major countries of the region, China and Japan. From the very beginning, the China Program strongly emphasized the country's minorities. As a result, WWU now has one of the best collections on this subject, including numerous books written in all officially recognized scripts used by certain non-­Chinese groups, particularly the Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Mongols.

Of these, particular emphasis was given to the Mongols, and by 1973 WWU offered its first courses in Mongolian Studies. In that same year, Professor Schwarz went on the first of many study trips to China where he collected books which he then donated to the Western Washington University Libraries, a practice he has continued to this day. Of the 19,000 volumes he has donated so far, a substantial portion are on Mongolia and the Mongols.

Professor Schwarz's friend and former colleague at the University of Washington, the world-famous Altaicist and Mongolist Nicholas Poppe, donated his private library, and other Mongolists also contributed to what is now North America’s largest academic library collection of books on the subject, with well over 12,500 titles as of October 2013.

WWU has also hosted a number of activities related to Mongolia over the years. For example, it hosted the first North American Conference on Mongolian Studies in 1978 and an international seminar on “Mongolian Culture and Society in the Age of Globalization” in 2005. The proceedings of both conferences were published in the Center for East Asian Studies two book series, Studies on East Asia and East Asian Research Aids and Translations.

Other books on Mongolia in these series include Mongolian Short Stories (1974), Bibliotheca Mongolica (1978), Professor Poppe's autobiography, Reminiscences (1983),The Minorities of Northern China (1984), Mongolia and the Mongols: Holdings at Western Washington University (1992), Opuscula Altaica (1994) which is the festschrift presented to Professor Schwarz upon his retirement, the English edition of Academician Shirendev’s autobiography Through the Ocean Waves (1998), The Last Mongol Prince: The Life and Times of Demchugdongrub (2000), and the English edition of Academician Bira’s Mongolian Historical Writing from 1200 to 1700 (2002).

These activities have been supported since 1997 by the Henry G. Schwarz Endowment Fund for Mongolian Studies which provides in perpetuity scholarships, money for purchasing Mongolian books for this university’s libraries, and travel grants to assist scholars to come to Bellingham and use WWU's library resources.
Recent Publications

The Silk Road (Volume 15), edited by Daniel Waugh; 218 pages; free download (Annual journal of the Silkroad Foundation)

Volume 15 of the on-line journal The Silk Road covers a range of material and includes numerous photos, maps, drawings and other images. Articles also cover a range of subjects including ancient fortresses in Afghanistan's Wakhan region; caravanserais in the Mongol Golden Horde; and recent discoveries at a Turkic fortress in Kazakhstan. Other topics include a new analysis of the use of silver coins in Gaochang along the Northern Silk Road and articles about cross-cultural exchange: a ruler in Egypt who recognized his Central Asian heritage; items in museum collections connected with the “migration” of centaurs across Asia; connections involving Unified Silla Korea with the West; the deposit in a museum in the Urals of a relic from Timurid Samarkand; and the Chingissid legacy in post-Mongol East Asia. Photo essays cover Sasanian reliefs in Iran; the legacy of the Liao; and the importance of water across the Silk Roads. Finally, Volume 15 incude symposia reports and several book reviews and notices.

Volume 15 also contains a listing of the contents of the first fifteen issues of The Silk Road covering the period 2003 through 2017, an invaluable resource and especially valuable contribution for all those interested in scholarship on Central Asia and Mongolia, some of which is difficult to access and not always widely available.  

Volume 15 is freely available on line at:>, or alternatively at: <>

Print copies, sent free of charge to academic libraries, should be in the mail next month. Back numbers are also available. Volume 15 is the last issue that is also being printed in hard copy; future issues will only be available as an open access on-line publication.    

This is the final volume The Silk Road edited by Daniel Waugh (now editor emeritus) at the University of Washington. Future volumes will be edited by Professor Justin Jacobs at American University in Washington, DC.  All submissions and correspondence regarding future volumes should be addressed to him at: <>

Finally, please note that past issues of The Silk Road are available at a newly created website (all new volumes will be posted only at this website):

Mongoliya by Guo Xuebo (author) and Bruce Humes (translator); part of "Kaleidoscope Series of China Ethnic Writers" published by China Translation and Publishing House

Set in twentyfirst-century Inner Mongolia, Mongoliya is a semi-autobiographical novel by Gua Xuebo, an ethnic Mongol from China. According to one review (Asia-Pacific Journal, January 31, 2018), "It comprises three distinct but intertwined narratives: a spiritual journey, in which the author — ostensibly the narrator — seeks his Shamanic roots, long obscured in post-1949, officially atheist China; vignettes from the Mongolian adventures of Henning Haslund-Christensen, born to a Danish missionary family in 1896 and real-life author of the anthropological masterpiece Men and Gods in Mongolia; and the tribulations of Teelee Yesu, a modern-day fictional Mongol herdsman, considered by many to be the village idiot, whose very survival is threatened by desertification and coal mine truckers running roughshod over his tiny plot of land".

The same review notes that "Very occasionally . . . a minority author manages to skirt the censors and turn the spotlight on burning issues," situating Guo Xuebo's novel among those books written by minority authors in China who creatively grapple with issues that are central not only to China but also to other parts of the world.

Further developing this theme, another reviewer notes that Mongoliya "treats comically two topics almost never mentioned in Chinese news reports or fiction: The exploitation of traditional Mongolian pasture lands by ruthless mining firms and the use of self immolation by China's ethnic minorities, to protest government policies aimed at acculturation".
Translator Bruce Humes has lived in Taipei, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kunming and Shenzhen.  He specializes in translating Chinese-language fiction by or about China's non-Hun peoples, especially those who speak Altaic languagues such as the reindeer-herding Evenki (Last Quarter of the Moon) and the Uyghur in Xinjiang (Confessions of a Jade Lord). 

Proceedings from 12th Annual International Mongolian Studies Conference, edited by Myagmaryn Saruul-Erdene, Sodnomyn Enkhtsetseg and Nyamkhuugiin Narangerel  (Mongolian Cultural Center/Embassy of Mongolia, 2018)

This very recent publication includes many (though not all) of the presentations given at a recent (February 9-10, 2018) conference on Mongolian Studies held in Washington, DC.  Organized by the Mongolian Cultural Center, the event was hosted by the Mongolian Embassy and included contributions from the Library of Congress, Mongolian-American Cultural Association (MACA), and Tashim Urtuu North American (TUNA), among others.

Topics covered include academic disciplines such as Archaeology, History and Philology and important themes such Inner Mongolia after World War II, national identity and Mongolian communities in the United States.  Individual contributions vary in length but at 340 pages this book covers a lot of ground. Friends, Fellows and supporters of ACMS are well represented in several articles, underscoring the positive role that ACMS plays in encouraging scholarship and supporting research on Mongolia.

Major articles include Kristen Pearson (University of Pennsylvania) on what the archeological record reveals about textiles; Anran Wang (Cornell University) on the Chinese Communist Party's approach to Eastern Inner Mongolia immediately after World War II; Dotno Dashdorj (University of Pennsylvania) on Land Reform in Inner Mongolia during the 1950s; Clyde Goulden (Drexel University) and Robert Macintosh (US National Park Service) on Lake Hovsgol; Amuguleng Wu (University of China/University of Pennsylvania) on the Qing Conquest of Jungar during 1755-1758, as recorded in the Manchu archives; Wei Chen (University of Pennsylvania) on the architecturial aspects of three Mongolian Lamaseries; Phlip Marzluf (Kansas State University) on writing by early female travelers on the Mongolian frontier; Amartuvshin Sukhee (Mongolian National University of Education) on Mongolian stereotypes in the American media; Joseph Cleveland (Indiana University) on Mongolian nationalism and national identity; and Karen Hollweg (Fulbright Specialist) on Herder Traditions and International Tourism.

In addition, the volume concludes with several chapters based on presentions at previous Mongolia studies conferences including Alicia Campi (Mongolia Society) on US-Mongolian relations; Petya Andreeva and Christopher Atwood on newly discovered rock drawings in Mongolia; and Simon Wickhamsmith (Rutgers University) on the influence of European Modernism on Natsagdorj, "Father of Modern Mongolian Literature".  

Language, Literacy, and Social Change in Mongolia: Traditionalist, Socialist, and Post-Socialist Identities (Contemporary Central Asia: Societies, Politics, and Cultures) by Phillip P. Marzluf; 234 pages; $95 (Lexington Books, 2018)

Language, Literacy, and Social Change in Mongolia is the first full-length treatment of literacy in Mongolian. Challenging readers’ assumptions about Central Asia and Mongolia, this book focuses on Mongolians’ experiences with reading and writing throughout the past 100 years. Literacy, as a powerful historical and social variable, shows readers how reading and writing have shaped the lives of Mongolians and, at the same time, how reading and writing have been transformed by historical, political, economic, and other social forces.

Mongolian literacy serves as an especially rich area of inquiry because of the dramatic political, economic, and social changes that occurred in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. For the seventy years during which Mongolia was a part of the communist Soviet world, literacy played an important role in how Mongolians identified themselves, conceived of the past, and created a new social order. Literacy was also a part of the story of authoritarianism and state violence. It was used to express the authority of the communist Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, control the pastoral population, and suppress non-socialist beliefs and practices. Mongolians’ reading and writing opportunities and resources were tightly controlled, and the language policy of replacing the traditional Mongolian script with the Cyrillic alphabet immediately followed the violent repression of Buddhist leaders, government officials, and intellectuals.

Beginning with the 1990 Democratic Revolution, Mongolians have been thrust into free-market capitalism, privatization, globalization, and neoliberalism. In post-socialist Mongolia, literacy no longer serves as the center for Mongolian identity. Government subsidies to pastoral literacy resources have been slashed, and administrators now find themselves competing with other “developing countries” for educational funding. Due to the pressures caused by globalization, Mongolians have begun to talk about literacy and language in terms of crisis and anxiety. As global flows of English compete with new symbols from the distant past, Mongolians worry about the perceived lowering standards of Mongolian linguistic usage amid rapid economic changes. These worries also reveal themselves in official language policies and manifest themselves in the multiple languages and scripts that appear in the capital of Ulaanbaatar and other urban areas. 

Phillip P. Marzluf is associate professor in the English Department at Kansas State University, where he teaches classes on literacy, professional writing, pedagogy, and world literature.  A former ACMS Fellow, he also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mongolia.

Ulaanbaatar Beyond Water and Grass: A Guide to the Capital of Mongolia by M.A. Aldrich; 328 pages; $39 (Hong University Press, 2018)


Ulaanbaatar Beyond Water and Grass is the first English language book that takes visitors to an in-depth exploration of the capital of Mongolia. In the first section, M. A. Aldrich paints a detailed portrait of the history, religion, and architecture of Ulaanbaatar with reference to how the city evolved from a monastic settlement to a communist-inspired capital and finally to a major city of free-wheeling capitalism and Tammany Hall politics. The second section offers the reader a tour of different sites within the city and beyond, bringing back to life the human dramas that have played themselves out on the stage of Ulaanbaatar.

At its best, Ulaanbaatar Beyond Water and Grass: A Guide to the Capital of Mongolia reveals much that remains hidden from the temporary visitor and even from the long-term resident. Writing in a quirky, idiosyncratic style, the author shares his appreciation and delight in this unique urban setting—indeed, in all things Mongolian.

M. A. Aldrich is a lawyer and author who has lived and worked in Asia for nearly thirty years. His previous books include The Search for a Vanishing Beijing: A Guide to China’s Capital Through the Ages and The Perfumed Palace: Islam’s Journey from Mecca to Peking. He has also written numerous articles on Chinese and Mongolian law and is currently writing a book about Lhasa.