Economic Diversification among Mongolian Reindeer Herders: Continuity and Change in the Tannu Uriankhai Girdle
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Drawing on seven months of anthropological fieldwork conducted in northernmost Mongolia among nomadic Dukha reindeer herders (widely known as Tsaatan), this article examines Dukha economic diversification in light of the history of the Upper Yenisei–Darkhad Depression region in northern Inner Asia. Before its dislocation into discrete territories of dif- ferent socialist countries in the early twentieth century, this place, which I call the Tannu Uriankhai Girdle, comprised an integrated economic mosaic that featured both taiga- and steppe-based pastoralism, as well as hunting, fishing, gathering, agriculture, inter- and intra-regional trade and remuner- ated labour. Reindeer pastoralism complemented and was complemented by the other facets of this economic mosaic. Now the Dukha economy itself comprises nearly all facets of this mosaic. This economic configura- tion affords and is afforded by greater degrees of autonomy and autarky, which reinforce and are reinforced by the ongoing partnership between Dukha, reindeer and their shared taiga homeland.
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