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No longer 'kings': learning to be a Mongolian person in the middle Gobi

Michelet, Aude (2013) No longer 'kings': learning to be a Mongolian person in the middle Gobi. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This doctoral dissertation examines the inter-subjective processes through which young children are shaped and shape others into persons (hün), as they learn to interact through the Mongolian mode of hierarchical relations. Based on twenty months of ethnographic fieldwork in the middle Gobi, the research focuses on the period when children (between two and eight years of age) lose their status as indulged and protected babies and learn to assume the role of older brother/sister (ah/egj) and younger sibling (düü). To investigate how children become competent at interacting through the Mongolian mode of hierarchical relations, the study considers three questions: how do children learn to enact etiquette (yos)? How do children develop relations within and outside of their family (ger bül) and family network (ah düü)? How do children learn to work and to become helpful? The research reveals that Mongolian social hierarchy is structurally produced by, and is the product of, an irreconcilable moral tension. On the one hand, children learn to form relations of interdependence and to actively take part in the production of asymmetrical but mutual obligations. On the other hand, children learn to use etiquette to establish relations at the safe distance of respect, and to develop social and emotional skills to protect themselves from the potential dangers of relatedness. By documenting the processes through which children learn to form relations as ah/egj and düü, this study uncovers the social mechanisms which sustain the re-production of Mongolian social hierarchy and the individual skills necessary to be a socially and morally competent Mongolian person. More generally, the dissertation contributes to the anthropological study of personhood by rethinking ‘the cultural construction of the person’ as an ongoing process of learning.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Aude P.P. Michelet
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Bloch, Maurice

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