My name is Tom Conte and I am a second year applied anthropology Masters student here at Oregon State studying under Dr. Bryan Tilt. During the past summer, I had the pleasure of conducting my thesis fieldwork in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region with the help of funding from the Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund and a partnership with Northeast Forestry University in Harbin, China.
Over the past half century, Inner Mongolia has experienced a marked deterioration of once extensive and healthy grassland resources due in part to the expansion of agriculture and the sedentarization of formerly nomadic Mongolian herders. The aim of my research was to study Mongolian herders’ perceptions of land degradation and sedentarization.
Additionally, I am interested in how changing land tenure and settlement policies have affected the traditionally cooperative relationships that existed between Inner Mongolian herding families in their nomadic past. Traditionally, livestock herding was conducted by families using what was known as a khot ail system. Under this traditional system, several families would camp together and manage collective herds of livestock using cooperative labor. They would conduct regular seasonal migrations to new pastures in order to sustainably manage grasslands and allow pastures to regenerate after grazing. The aim of my research is to measure the attitudes towards cooperative labor of Inner Mongolian pastoralists now that government policies have privatized rangelands and settled the pastoral population.
The data collection phase of my project is now complete and I look forward to collaborating with my advisor, OSU faculty, and fellow students in my cohort to analyze both the ethnographic and quantitative data I collected in the field. Stay tuned for more updates…