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Notions of Rights over Land and the History of Mongolian Pastoralism

DAVID SNEATH
Inner Asia
Vol. 3, No. 1 (2001), pp. 41-58
Published by: Brill
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23615447
Page Count: 18
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Notions of Rights over Land and the History of Mongolian Pastoralism
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Abstract

In the 1990s the Mongolian state implemented a series of reforms designed to create a competitive market economy based on private property. These included the wholesale privatisation of the pastoral economy and the dissolution of the collective and state farms. The Asian Development Bank and other international development agencies advocated new legislation to allow the private ownership of land. This remains a highly controversial issue in Mongolia, particularly with respect to pasture land which remains a public-access resource. This paper reviews the history of conflicting notions of rights over land, and explores the ways in which indigenous concepts are rooted in pastoral practices and institutions which have long histories on the Mongolian steppe. The history of pastoral institutions in Mongolia reveals the ways in which land formed part of wider sociotechnical systems — activities linking techniques and material objects to the social coordination of labour. These attitudes to land use can be contrasted with the more exclusive and commercial notions of land ownership of Chinese agricultural and urban society. Indeed, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the sale or leasing of previously public-access land to Chinese farmers was a central factor in the formation of resistance movements in Inner Mongolia. Today in Mongolia's 'age of the market' (zah zeeliin üye) issues of land ownership are once again on the political agenda.

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