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SARR Conference, June 27-29, 2011, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
"Mongolians after Socialism: Economic Aspiration, Political Development, and Cultural Identity"
A States at Regional Risk (SARR) Conference

Sponsors and Organizers

States at Regional Risk Project (SARR), Emory University, Atlanta, USA; Bruce M. Knauft, Ph.D., Director, SARR & S. C. Dobbs Professor of Anthropology, Emory University

The Open Society Forum, Mongolia (OSF); Erdenegargal Perenlei, Director and Gerelmaa Amgaabazar, Manager, Social Policy and Education Issues

Dr. Richard Taupier. Ph.D., Associate Director of Research Development, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

The SARR project is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and additional conference support is also gratefully acknowledged from the Rubin Foundation in New York and the U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar.


The goal of the SARR project is to cultivate creative dialogue between scholars, civil society and development leaders, and policy-oriented practitioners in societies undergoing regional transitional development following major social stress and/or transformation. Post-socialist Mongolia is the focus of the Inner Asia portion of SARR and is distinctive for its proactive and progressive approaches to sociocultural, economic, and political transition in the central and east Asian regional context.

The SARR conference in Ulaanbaatar will bring together diverse considerations of contemporary Mongolian economic and environmental aspiration, political development, and cultural/spiritual identity not as isolated or separated phenomena but as integrally linked and mutually influencing. In this respect, it may be noted that economic growth is not just a goal but a value and a felt need; that political activity does not just manage, exploit, or respond to social and cultural needs but actively configures social and cultural directions; and that Mongolian constructions of cultural and/or spiritual identity are multidimensional and inform many forms of Mongolian interaction and intervention. How these factors merge dynamically to inform Mongolian development – and how those who engage and consider these issues can benefit by enlarging their perspectives across these complementary dimensions – is a key focus of this conference.

The conference emphasis is on “Mongolians” rather than on “Mongolia.” We are interested in people and their human processes, including case studies of contemporary developments, not on formal or official entities such as the state or other institutions in formal or abstract terms. Mongolians also cross national borders in contemporary movement and identity, not to mention historically, and the conference is in this sense regional. The conference structure will encourage dialogue across points of view and perspectives rather than the reading of lengthy papers or extended PowerPoint presentations. The conference hopes to enable participants and others attending to substantially learn from and discuss diverse perspectives in addition to presenting existing views – to deepen and selectively expand or rethink taken-for-granted orientations in development work, in environmental strategies, in policy considerations, and in scholarship.

Each session should involve substantial discussion, including as prompted by designated respondents and moderators as well as by panelist and other audience members. Presenters will be asked to keep presentations short (15 minutes) and to configure their remarks in ways open to subsequent cross-perspective discussion.

Simultaneous translation in Mongolian and English will be important.

The sessions in the three-day conference are:

Session 1: Politics & Economics:  “New Money,” Elected Governments, and Wealth Disparity
Session 2:  Contemporary Cultural and Spiritual Identities
Session 3: Mining, Political Economy, and Environmental Sustainability
Session 4:  Impact of Socio-political and Cultural Change on Mongolian Lifestyles
Session 5: Mongolia as a Asian Crossroads: Arts, Culture and Ideology
Session 6:  Interpreting Mongolian Buddhist History:  Why the Past Matters

Click HERE for list of participants and talk summaries.