Society for East Asian Anthropology
Anthropology And Environment Society
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
In Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, the murky and obscuring nature of the city’s chronic air pollution is a physical constant of the long winter months. Air pollution intimately influences urban lives in Ulaanbaatar, not only through the bodies that breathe the particulate saturated air, but also through religious practices and the city’s psychological underpinnings. Air pollution marks the boundary between what is considered to be the physical and the immaterial. It insinuates itself into all parts of the city, yet ultimately eludes capture and control. It is precisely this lack of clarity, its ambiguity or fuzziness, which makes pollution resonate powerfully within the minds of Ulaanbaatar’s residents. As the dirty air blocks access to breath and light in the city, air pollution is believed to reflect broader cosmological, economic and moral obscurations. This talk will investigate how the desire for purification and light in Ulaanbaatar relate to contemporary Mongolian religious practices.