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Nomadic and domestic: dwelling on the edge of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

  • Author(s): Miller, Joel Eric
  • Advisor(s): Curry, Michael R
  • et al.
Abstract

The ger districts, so named for the traditional felt tents that are still prevalent in the domestic landscape of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, retain a connection to their nomadic heritage. But those who dwell here are now removed from the pastoral production systems of the countryside as they struggle to establish a place for themselves at the edge of the city. This dissertation first locates the place of the ger districts between the countryside and the city, then delves into how land within the ger districts is subdivided for settlement. With the nature of access to land established, the investigation turns to ethnographic methods of participant-observation and semi-structured interviews combined with architecturally-based research into the visual and material culture of the built environment. The aim is to better understand residents' quotidian practices of constructing and inhabiting peri-urban neighborhoods of informal housing. Conclusions find that ger district residents are finding their own way forward through strategies that transform domesticity into economic and social participation. The transmutation of mobility, from a nomadic past toward an urban future provides a unique model for academic understanding of self-built housing areas as well as the more generalizable practices and policies concerning settlements in an increasingly urbanized world.

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