THE TUCHALARS (THE TSAATANS) IN THE FACE OF CHANGE. INTERPRETATIONS OF 'THE DECLINE' OF AN INDIGENOUS CULTURE
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Tuchalars (mong. Tsaatans) are a group of Tuvan reindeer breeders who remained with their herds after the closing down of a collective, kolkhoz-like enterprise in northern Mongolia. For decades they functioned within the framework of a people's state and the absurd economy of the kolkhoz. In the 1990s, when all the state companies folded up, this group of Turkish-language reindeer farmers became an attraction 'on-duty' in the emerging democratic Mongolia as well as almost the main target for various charities and NGOs. In this paper the author discusses the Tuchalars' experience of the social, economic and cultural change. In order to describe cultural dimensions of the change he uses such categories as gift, social exchange, ecology and local knowledge. The description, as it turns out, derives to large extent from the pastoral knowledge and praxis, the shamanism's worldview and particular, local economy. The interpretation of the indigenous experience of change is also an attempt to explain the rapidity of the very process - the process of 'the decline' of indigenous culture.
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