- Social Anthropology
Rethinking land use in the Era of the Anthropocene (Mongolia, Russia, China)
Along with colonisation, socialism and capitalism, Westerners have exported to Asia their worldviews on a variety of topics such as economy, politics, social relations and religion, which have fundamentally affected the relations between humans and their environment, including land use. Under the influence of market economy, land as private property has become widespread. What my project aims to study in depth is the confrontations, assimilations and negotiations that occur between those imported models of treating the land, and the local perspectives on relations with the environment, within the context of growing environmental issues. My research focuses on the Mongol nomadic herders living in three adjacent countries: Mongolia, Russia and China. In the 20th century, Mongol citizens in Mongolia, Russia and China underwent similar processes in the management of husbandry, namely collectivisation and de-collectivisation. However, the three states followed different political, economical and social logics which deeply affected land use: land privatisation is already completed in China, is ongoing in Russia and is highly controversial in Mongolia.
The aim of this comparative research is thus to offer a novel approach to studying the way political, economical, social and environmental changes are interconnected. According to Mongolian beliefs and practices, the landscape is inhabited by invisible entities, master spirits of the land (gazryn ezen). Traditionally, humans should not disturb them, and must preserve environmental resources. It is people who belong to a place (their homeland), and not the other way round. Therefore, land privatisation creates challenging meeting points in terms of relations to the land between local and more globalised models. I investigate how Mongol herders, in the three countries they live in, redefine, or not, the role they ascribe themselves in their environment shared with other non-human beings.