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Almost 10 years ago the mineral-rich country of Mongolia experienced rapid economic growth, fueled by China’s need for coal and copper. Hopes were raised that the economy would avoid ‘over-heating’ and Mongolia could emerge independently wealthy and powerful. This period of growth is now over. The country is facing increasing public and private debt, conflicts around sovereignty and land, multiple forms of political protest that seem to go unnoticed, and a turn toward a more conservative politics that critiques ideas about democracy and protects its own but ignores the masses. This book details this story through the intimate lives of five women. It explores how they carve out a life for themselves in a landscape that is constantly shifting, while reflecting on past hopes and aspirations. Building on long-term friendships and familiarity with the region, Rebecca attends to the ways these women have come to theorize their experiences of living a ‘life in the gap’, between desired outcomes and actual materializations. In doing so, and through attention to their different strategies, she offers a re-viewing and re-configuring – to build on the analytical vocabulary developed in the book – of official accounts to describe what is going on in this extractivist-based economy.
About the Author
In her latest book, based on research carried out for her ERC-funded project Emerging Subjects (2014-2019), Rebecca Empson explores experiences of the fluctuating extractivist-based economy in Mongolia and its impact on ideas about democracy and forms of subjectivity, particularly among women. She has previously worked on issues to do with personhood, ownership, memory and material culture (see Harnessing Fortune, OUP 2011), and more recently to do with the proliferation of temporary forms of possession and ownership in diverse areas in the global economy (see Cultural Anthropology 2019). Rebecca M. Empson is Professor of Anthropology at UCL.