Creating Bottom-up Development : A Study of Self-Organization and the Building of Fortune-Prosperity by the Torghuts from the Bulgan Sum in Mongolia
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Local communities in non- Western countries are often treated by international institutions as rather passive subjects, which need to be taught by experts and re-organized according to Western socioeconomic models (Hobart 1993). As a result of such an approach, many development agencies tend to overlook and omit the locals’ own forms of social activity and their ideas of self-organization. In this article I would like to focus on the bottomup process of change in contemporary Mongolia and the Mongolians’ own idiomatic ideas and practices of initiating and arranging development. I refer to research conducted in the Bulgan Sum (district), which is located on the southern slopes of the Altai. I have been conducting fieldwork among contemporary Torghuts since 2012. I mainly focus on the posttransitional economic activities in Bulgan, which involve collective management of goods (Empson 2014) and many new kinds of business related to cross-border trade. In the study I write about informal networks of businessmen and their way of fostering kinship relations in business. In this context I analyze the activity of the ‘Torgon Nutag Club’, established by a group of Torguud businessmen, who initiated and organized numerous social and cultural events and celebrations in their hometown. The majority of club members live in Ulaanbaatar, in the so-called ‘Torghut Town’, which can now be considered one of the main intellectual centres where the Torghuts are active. What is particularly important here is that in this way the Torghuts create not only spontaneous and original social organizations, but also the idioms of spiritually-benefi cial action, thus stimulating elements of a common fate, fortune-prosperity, life energy and potency.
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