Subjective lives and economic transformations in Mongolia : Life in the gap
Empson, Rebecca M.
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It had been three years since I was last in Mongolia, and things felt unfamiliar. The skyline was crowded by new buildings. Fashion styles had diversified. Shops and restaurants proliferated. There was also a new kind of dirty, rugged and raw side to the gloss and glamour that Mongolians are so good at upholding. As on previous visits, but perhaps more intensely simply because of the great contrasts, in 2015 I felt that I was being confronted in a somewhat dystopian way with what a capitalism of the future might look like. Brushing up against this underside – the ruthless contrast between rich and poor, the seeming absence of the state, the horrendous air pollution in the city and the ravaging of natural resources, the unequal access to medical care and the way in which people were trying to make a living on the edges of things – provided a glimpse of the reverberating effects of late capitalism being felt in numerous places. Deeply destructive, uneven and desperate, it also appeared thrilling and full of potential. Cutting across this landscape of raw inequalities were individual people forging their own ethical projects that sometimes, somewhat surprisingly, seemed to flourish and grow in the cracks. Rather than a simple before and after (boom and bust, utopian and dystopian) narrative, I hope that through our attention to the lives of individuals will bring out a more complex and nuanced understanding of this time will emerge.
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