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Unwanted Becomings: Post-Socialist Mongolians in Settler-Colonial Los Angeles

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

This study focuses on a thoroughly post-socialist phenomenon—the becomings that contemporary Mongolian immigrants who are moving to Los Angeles in the wake of the socialist world’s ‘collapse’ undergo as a result of dwelling and creating new landscapes in the city. Specifically, it considers what some members of Los Angeles’s Mongolian population regarded as unwanted becomings, that is those things that some deemed as likely to make them less Mongolian, and the practices they engage in to minimize harm, like attempting to create a municipally recognized neighborhood with a Mongolian toponym.

This ethnographic account draws on data gathered through two years of participant observation, archival research, and life-history interviews largely focused on the city’s Koreatown— where the bulk of the Mongolian population reside. Analyzing data gathered on Mongolian life in Los Angeles reveals how the post-socialist experience of migration, and the unwanted becomings it inflicts, is indelibly shaped by not just by Los Angeles’s settler-colonial past but by the city’s settler-colonial present.

If even Mongolians—a population whose post-socialist national identity is firmly rooted in mobility— are influenced by settler-colonialism’s emphasis on occupying space and creating landscapes through the elimination of the native and their landscapes then this study argues that comprehending and accounting for settler-colonialism is essential for anthropologists studying and seeking to understand life in the United States. It stresses the necessity for anthropologists studying the United States to make common cause with the anthropologists studying Native North America.

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