Khentii Aimag, Mongolia — on the road

In Tov Aimag Mongolia — on the road

The Artefacts page offers interested readers an overview of my scholarly work, the most recent of which focuses on the ethnographic study of contemporary Khalkha Mongol society and culture in Mongolia. Most people’s adult lives seem to follow an arc of one sort or another. Fortuitously, this has turned out to be an important part of mine.

As a member of the Independent Scholars Association of Australia (ISAA), in addition to previous professional roles at the intersection of the Australian Higher Education and Australian Commonwealth Government sectors (see Other Studies), I have inhabited another social world: that of an independent scholar, someone who independently of traditional university and academic institutions is actively engaged in scholarly work that may offer well-founded studies of society and ideas of cultural significance. The ethnographic study of the various roles that contemporary Khalkha Mongol people are taking up to maintain and revitalise their cultural heritage and traditions can be considered as central in this respect.

Any grandiose (or misconceived) sense of personal achievement in relation to any of the  ‘works’ referred to on this website is tempered by the fact that each reflects a complex of social collaborations with intelligent hard-working other people. Annotated entries fall within the socio-cultural academic research sphere. In my own life I will only get to do a certain number of things. This is what I have done so far. All things and tenures are impermanent so best get on with it and just do the best that you can.

The Mongol steppe — in the anthropological field

The Mongol steppe — in the anthropological field

The Mongolia Project in Mongolia

Coming full circle, translation of the English language manuscript ‘back’ into Mongolian

The English language first edition of The Great Nenchen (2015) by Zava Damdin Lama  (see below) has now been translated into Mongolian and also published. Both editions were officially launched in Mongolia in February 2015.  Surely, there can be no deeper personal satisfaction for me than this? In the fullness of time, the sweet ripening of good fruit. Please note that the one-hundred and eight detailed footnotes supporting interpretation of the doha in the english language (first edition) of The Great Nenchen, have not been translated across to the first edition rendered in Mongolian  Cyrillic.

See: Зава Дамдин Ренбүчи-“Цогт Очироор Аюулган Үйлдэгч” 2015 оны 2-р сарын 22, 23 нд (16 February 2015) for an interview with Zava Damdin on Mongolian National Television and a discussion of how the English and Mongolian editions of The Great Nenchen were developed.

Publishing a major cross-cultural scholarly work with indigenous-to-Mongolia others

The Great Nenchen by Zava Damdin Lama (February 2015). (First Edition). Translated by Catherine Pleteshner and Erdenetsogtyn Sodontogos (Zava Damdin Sutra and Scripture Institute, Ulaanbaatar Mongolia). ISBN 9778-99962-4-344-8.

The Mongol scholar-poet Zava Damdin Lama (1976– ) composed the songs selected for this first edition during his Nenchen retreat (2007–2011). Variously translated as ‘Songs of Experience’ (Skt. doha) or ‘Songs of Realisation,’ such compositions are characteristic of a poetic form associated with the Vajrayana Buddhist tantric movement.

To my way of thinking about my own small ethnographic universe in terms of ‘inter-culturality’ an important, in some ways unanticipated, precedent has come to the fore: that is, to ‘write with’ rather than ‘write about‘ Mongolian people at the highest culltural level. Whilst others will have their own perspectives, I would like to think that I am, in some practical way, facilitating the capacity of others to construct and perform in the English language post-soviet socialist narratives regarding their Mongol-selves.

Here, it seems appropriate to at least mention, if not declare, some of the ‘constraints’ at play in the production of this oral history and similar works. Without doubt, in terms of power relations, Zava Damdin Lama was the senior arbitrator in terms of what did and did not go into the final book. However, having said that, my own contribution was not that of ‘ethnographic ventriloquism‘, ‘the claim to speak not just about another form of life but to speak from within it’ (Clifford Geertz. (1988). Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. p145). Nor was my contribution to the process an expression of a scholar-ethnographer’s independence  (without self-critique). Be in do doubt, there was indeed a great deal of exploratory discussion and at times (quite animated) debate. Interpreting the rich and delicate visual imagery and prose selected for The Great Nenchen into another language for others unfamiliar with Mongol Buddhist culture and society was more complicated than either of these other modalities of scholarly production might infer. Different modalities produce different artefacts —Ethnography 101.

Through my yielding to the unfolding creative processes of learning inherent in an intellectual-artistic collaboration navigated by Zava Damdin Lama, the final shape and detailing of content minutiae for this particular artefact of ethnographic scholarly production emerged; not only from a multi-cultural composite of scholarly and literary conventions but also from an array of disparate (pre-scriptive) themes and motifs. The Bagsh-student (dominant-subordinate) dyad of power relations, ever-present, receded as we went deeper into interpreting the texts. More importantly however, in terms of ‘anthropology’ and its practice, in working on an enterprise proximally and locally, I too was (re)shaped and taught through the very generative and analytical processes in which I was engaged and immersed.  In terms of an inter-culturality of ethnographic practice, we shape and are shaped by the very company we keep. It is this dynamic intra inter-cultural psycho-sociality between contributing ‘actors’ of which I now speak, although modelling this scientifically is well beyond my grasp.

Refer to Artscape 02: The Great Nenchen for further details.

First tasting of new waters, multi-lingual translation and publishing with indigenous others

Whilst doing fieldwork in Mongolian in July 2013 I had the privilege to assist with the translation into English of an original work that concisely outlines for scholars and students a history of Mongolian Buddhism. My own work was closely supervised by the Venerable Zava Damdin Lama (the author). Predicated on the interpretation of authentic Mongolian Gelupga Buddhist text-based sources, this concise scholarly work points to multiple levels of meaning and interpretation that can be expounded upon by scholars with the training, linguistic and cultural background necessary to do so.  This condensed historical teaching is at the heart of the continuity of a Mongolian religious tradition, and therefore, salient to the study and scholarly investigation of the Mongol-Tibetan interface of contemporary Mongolian society and culture in Mongolia.

The original succinct treatise was composed according to the conventions and formulae of  Tibetan poetic forms. The concise history was then translated by the author into Mongolian—first into the traditional Mongolian vertical script (Mongol Bichig) and then into the latter Mongolian Cyrillic form. Returning to the original composition in Tibetan, an English language interpretation was then composed. The assembling of a composite digital document that brought together each translation along with original artwork by the author was the final step in the compositional process. A small group of capable people worked collaboratively (and mindfully) from the beginning through to the completion of this first-time project of multi-lingual literary production. The completed booklet was then printed locally in Ulaanbaator.

The citation is as follows: Zava Damdin Lama Lovsangdarjaa. 2013. Echo of the Snow Land (a distributed formal address in the form of a booklet [including original artworks by the author] to all participating delegates of the Thirteenth Seminar of the International Association of Tibetan Studies IATS in Ulaanbaatar 21-27 July 2013). Ulaanbaator, Mongolia: Zava Damdin Sutra and Scripture Institute, Delgertsogt Mountain, Mongolia.

Transcribing learned commentaries, the (now) traditional (euro-western) approach

During a three week residency at Delgeruun Choira in July 2013, I developed an edited English language transcript from authorised recordings (of the orator) of a Burhan Ayush Commentary by Lobsang Darjaa Zava Damdin Lama in the Tradition and Unbroken Lineage of Venerable Rachungpa. July 2013. (Unpublished manuscript, Zava Damdin Sutra and Scripture Institute, Delgertsogt Mountain, Mongolia).

The Mongolian Burhan Ayush (Skt: ‘amita’ boundless; ‘ayus’ life: Ch: ‘Amituo Fo’; ‘Wuliangshou’) is one of the three long life Buddhas in the Gelugpa Buddhist pantheon. This particular lineage of Mongolian Burhan Ayush practice, an unbroken lineage of oral transmission from Teacher to student can be traced back to Venerable Rachungpa (Rechung Dorje Drakpa. Wylie: Ras-chung Rdo-rje Grags-pa; 1083/4-1161.) Refer to the Burhan Ayush initiation transcript for the specific lineage of oral transmission. Special, small religious paintings referred to as ‘zaghali’ are used by a Gelugpa Lama (Wylie: bla-ma) during such an initiation ritual. The zaghali used on this occasion for Burhan Ayush is said to have been painted by one of the Mongol lam-artists at Delgeruun Choira in the Dundgovi before the socialist era and the monastery’s destruction in 1937-38.

The careful, phrase by phrase rendering of audio-recordings of Gelug lamas’ spoken discourses into text-based digital artefacts is a well-established and now widespread practice by students of (Tibetan) Buddhist philosophy and their lama-tutors in the euro-west. (I am not sure if ethnic Mongol Gelugpa lamas in the west do a similar thing. Maybe someone else knows?) My participant-observation experience has taught me that Gelug lamas give discourses on requested topics in the homes of their hosts and at their centres. In Australia, this practice began in the 1970s and continues to this day. As I write, other people all over the world (more often than not ‘western’ women-practitioners?) are engaged in this transcribing practice.  Solitary and voluntary, in certain conducive contexts and circumstances, such transcription is deeply satisfying and illuminating work.

Post-soviet socialist modernity and innovation, adding another language to the discourse

It may be of interest to readers to know that the Burhan Ayush Initiation and Commentary   (abbrev., see above) was the first initiation commentary to be given by Lovsangdarjaa Zava Damdin Lama in the English language. This important event took place on the 24th day of June 2013 at his monastery Delgeruun Choira, colloquially referred to as ‘The Mountain’ in Delgertsogt Sum, Mongolia.

The oral recitation of the traditional text-based liturgy was performed in the usual manner: in Tibetan though, as always is the case in Mongolia, it is imbued with the normalised and perceptible Mongolian pronunciation-accent variation. However, on this particular occasion the translation by Zava Damdin Lama of the commentarial text was primarily in English. Spoken Mongolian was limited to facilitating an understanding of the initiation’s process for the many Mongolian local and visiting participants. The Mongolian language was also used for giving other instructions to do with pragmatic and procedural affairs.

The necessary preparations for this ritual performance by everyone involved were (as has come to be expected) meticulous. With everything assembled and in place, participants settled into their places and the event progressively unfolded without interruption to either performance of ritual, or authoritative commentary thereon. Starting in the afternoon, the Burhan Ayush initiation and English language commentary continued well into the evening. My observations in retrospect settled on marvelling at how such a skilled orator (Zava Damdin Lama) can work so fluently across not only a multiplicity of languages, but also a miriad of eloquently performed (not just orated) ritual tasks. This complicated Gelugpa ritual performance was nevertheless completed within reasonable time, and within other (selected by the orator) commentarial constraints.

The Zava Damdin Medallion, an award

On the 10th of November 2011, I was awarded the Zava Damdin Medallion for my scholarly contribution to the study of contemporary Mongol culture. This event took place inside the Majestic Shining White Palace ger at Delgeruun Choira on Delgeruun Mountain (in Delgertsogt Sum in  the Dundgovi, Mongolia). I understand that I am the first woman and Australian to have been publicly awarded this honour in Mongolia. Professor Choirov Khishigtogtokh and Hatagin Gotovin Akim were awarded a similar medallion for their own (and much greater) contribution to scholarship at the same official ceremony.

The Zawa Damdin bLo bzang rta dbyangs (1867– ) Medallion

The Zawa Damdin bLo bzang rta dbyangs (1867– ) Medallion

In the context of a post-­soviet socialist cultural regeneration, this medallion was first presented to Mongolian scholars at a conference held in 2007 at the National Library of Mongolia in Ulanbaator. On that occasion, Professor Shagdaryn Bira (Secretary General of the International Association for Mongol Studies) chaired the proceedings. The conference was convened and sponsored by Zava Damdin Lama (1976– ). I had the good fortune to be invited to attend this important cultural event, the first of its kind in Mongolia to bring together local scholars of Mongolian Buddhism with other invited specialist scholars from Europe and the Baltic States. The two-day post-socialist inaugural conference was run in conjunction with other celebrations to honour the 140th Anniversary of the great Mongol-Gelug Buddhist historian before socialism, Zawa Damdin bLo bzang rta dbyangs (1867-1937). All events, including the conference, were advertised as open to the public and admission was free.

A collection of contemporary Mongol women’s stories

Pleteshner, C. 2011. Nomadic Temple: Daughters of Tsongkhapa in Mongolia. (Unpublished manuscript, 365pp). A collection of written narratives about contemporary Mongol women and aspects of the cultural and social worlds within which they are individually situated. Each of the thirty-four essays is grounded in  participant-observation fieldwork as well as interviews with the person about whom I write. (To read an illustrative example, please go to the Vignettes branch of my blog.) All of the people in this assemblage are Khalkha Mongols, the largest group of the (ethnic) Mongol peoples living in Mongolia today. As a community-specific collection, these now stand as testimony to the sheer rapidity of local (to Mongolia) social and cultural change.

The Mongolia Project in other spaces (multi-sited ethnography)

Ensuring online General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance

On 25 May 2018 the GDPR legislation came into force across Europe. It requires website owners to comply with European Privacy Regulations. Improving privacy in the wider online community,   through implementing a range of ‘opt-in’ consent protocols that empower contributor and end-user control over their personal data is the primary goal of this legislation. The wider-promulgation of these important principles is long overdue.

Educational Inter-cultural Multimedia

In December 2017 I completed the curatorial essay that maps out the conceptual and technical development of the multimodal and multi-platform work  Soundscape 05: Fluxus in F.

Experiences associated with studying Mongol culture in Mongolia for more than a decade cascade into what I am working on elsewhere. The You Tube video Soundscape 05: Fluxus in F for Adriana was composed In October 2017.  A musical meditation on ‘scholarship’ and  ‘Emptiness’ it draws on an English translation of 20th Century Mongol poetry and its associated enculturated perspective to set the scene.

Higher Education

For a week (5‑12 August 2017) I attended the annual ‘intensive’ meditation and Buddhist philosophy study course taught by the Venerable Gonsar Rinpoche at the Centre des Hautes Etudes Tibétaines  at Le Mont-Pèlerin near Lake Geneva, Switzerland.

ICT design and implementation

In close online consultation with the Mongolian community elders with whom I work, over a period of three months (November 2013 to January 2014) an integrated concept for the initiative and its sister YOU TUBE channel CP in Mongolia evolved. Both online repositories were populated and technically implemented without the need for me to out-source. As of the first day of the Mongolian Lunar Calendar New Year (31 January 2014), each branch of the website’s information design hosts one or more detailed entries. A number of these are background stories to performances posted on YOU TUBE.

In addition to my own ethnographic writing, research and performances, the first works of selected Mongolian scholars and artisans have also been noted and are included here too. Written authorisation from each author has also been obtained. With this online infrastructure and content management protocols now in place, additional authentic and substantive content related to the study of contemporary Mongolian culture and society in the form of postings can now be progressively added within this multi-media hosting framework (in alphabetical order): artefacts, artscapes, landscapes, motifs, soundscapes and vignettes. In terms of capacity building, everyone involved is now familiar with how such initiatives and their implementation work.

Conference presentation, Q & A

Women and the Replacement of Mongolian Buddhism. Presentation of a working paper at the Place and Displacement Conference 21-23 November 2012. Convened by The Community Identity Displacement Research Network (CIDRN) at Victoria University (Melbourne, Australia).

The CIDR Network of scholars is a public intellectual space where innovative research activities are encouraged and promoted. Here, ‘new questions of indigeneity, racism, refugees, sense of place, social inclusion, social justice, transnationalism and xenophobia (an unreasonable fear of foreigners or strangers) can be raised, debated and discussed.’ A primary stated aim of  the CIDR Network is, ‘to encourage creative, performative and visual responses to challenges of displacement, identity and community transformation.’ My study of contemporary Mongolian culture and society and the creative output that flows from this grounded research fits well into this frame.

Teaching and Learning

Sessional Lecturer and Tutor (AAA2011 Cultural History of Tibet:The Tibetan Empire). May 2012. Convened by Asian Studies Coordinator Mark Stevenson (Victoria University, Melbourne). At the Mongol-Tibetan interface of existing course content, supplementary teaching and learning materials developed for Asian Studies undergraduate students at Victoria University include: (a) Dimensions of Tibetan Religion in Mongolia: convergence; (b) Dimensions of Tibetan Religion in Mongolia: cross-cultural infrastructure; (c) Dimensions of Tibetan Religion in Mongolia: honour and protection; and (d) Dimensions of Tibetan Religion in Mongolia: enacting and creating a Buddhist world.

Finding and contributing my own voice to such discourses has not been singularly dependent on working with learned scholars located within (western) academic institutions of higher education and their modalities. From the mid-1980s I had already begun to seek out learned masters of philosophy at the boundaries of such enclaves. I have been both drawn to and intellectually challenged by actively engaging with their ‘traditional’ and preferred Teacher-Disciple oral transmission-of-lineage learner-centred pathways. Since 2004, I have studied with such masters not only in Mongolia but in Germany, Austria and Switzerland too.

Just one more reflexive step ‘backwards’ before moving on … By 1993, I had already begun consolidating what I was learning in my parallel study of Buddhist philosophy into some form of writing, not just for myself but for others as well.  So it was that between 1993 and 1997, I edited and produced the quarterly Lalita Newsletter mailed out to interested people in countries all over the world. There is no substitute for ‘articulation work’ (in black and white writing) to help hone one’s own syntheses of learning and what one thinks one knows! Lalita Newsletter served as a philosophical adjuct to an otherwise institution-specific professional thread.

Globalising modernity is not only a theoretical subject to be studied (I am a big fan of the British scholar-sociologist Anthony Giddens (1938- ), but a progressive developmental process by which one can make one’s own way. My own journey has drawn me into and through communities of (preoccupied) scholars and their socio-cultural nodes: in Bourdieusian field research terms, their ‘habitus.’ To my way of thinking, there is simply no substitute for ‘being there’ with people to better understand who they are (relationally) and how things work socially and culturally. In this context, and in terms of other social anthropologists’ analyses of post-soviet socialist Mongolian culture and the re-creation of identity, the insightful, the early post-soviet socialist well-researched and grounded-in-the-field-AND-archives scholarship of Christopher Kaplonski is a standout.

A section of my Mongolian fieldwork data and research archive-library. Its been a steady accumulation over many years. Whilst some prefer Chanel handbags, I am drawn more to 'well-researched' commentaries, manuscripts and books.

A section of my Mongolian fieldwork data and research archive-library. It has been a steady accumulation over many years. I have long been drawn to learned commentaries, oral histories, manuscripts and books.

Scholarly artefacts as reflections of innovation in a lineage of teacher-to-student transmission

To provide readers with an arc to the design of my Artefacts (and Other Studies) page, there are two main points I would like to make. They are both on the topic of artefacts and how lineages of practice relate to them. The first is quite straight forward. It is about scholarly artefacts in the form of publications and where they can through open access be found. The second is more complex, in fact an entire discourse in itself. However I would like to at least touch on this important subject for it relates to the practice of teaching and learning and lineage and how this relates to myself.

Publications are artefacts of literary and cultural production. They come from somewhere and someone. Contextualising their published-form representations to others within a provenance (the who and how of from where they came) avails us of additional and relevant information that would otherwise be lost were the artefacts to be dislocated from their social space origin-continuities and let float around in an otherwise disembodied virtual sphere. In my own ethnographic writing, I seek to emulate the ‘articulation work’ of cultivated scholars who reflect this practice, and whom I hold in high regard. Whilst some may consider all this a bit of a storm in a teacup, given the ubiquity of online information, and whilst it may take the reader a little longer to go from the top to the bottom of a particular page, surely this is good, if not best practice where cross-cultural ethnography is  concerned?

Many of my publications (see Other Studies) can be found in WorldCat, a global multi-lingual catalog of research in library collections. Some are organisational change-management program and project ‘evaluation’ reports commissioned by Australian university and government departments. Others were Commercial-in-confidence and so have no such ongoing digital archive life.

WorldCat, built and maintained collectively by the participating libraries,  itemises the collections of 72,000 libraries in 170 countries and territories (at last count). Anyone interested (not just people who work in universities) can easily access this powerful search tool online to find out about the research that has been done on their topic of interest and by whom its been done. From this enormous collection and free of charge, you can search out particular published works and the local (to you) libraries where they can be found. Not all valuable knowledge is available for free on the Internet. If you have read this far and are still curious, then you may like to do a quick Google or Bing search. Using ‘pleteshner’ such a search may yield other published artefacts that have been recorded in open-access digital archives and repositories.

And finally, in regard to the transmission of lineage aspect of Artefacts, the concluding and probably one of the more important stories that I would like to share with you is this:

For some of you, just an abridged listing of my artefact output would have sufficed. Having glossed it, you could then very quickly have drawn conclusions and made some assumptions about who I am and what I do. However, such a presentation of self is less than ideal. Why? Because complex work—within, across and between sectors, and now countries and cultures—is relational. We have to get on well with each other in order to get it right. ‘Thick description’ (cf. illuminating work of social anthropologist Clifford Geertz) allows for the inclusion of such meaningful (and many would say more interesting) information about the how, from whom and with whom, of the development of one’s own capacity to do things along the way.

Through ongoing working relationships with Mongolian scholars and friends, I am constantly reminded of something I also hold true: that we each look to particular mentors and colleagues to learn to work well and creatively with the particular tools and the skills in what we do. In Mongolia, one may find someone who is known to be a skilled musician, a poet or an artist, but one discovers quite soon that they are also serious scholars of history or of traditional practices or custodian of other oral transmissions of local knowledge too. Such teachers and mentors contribute enormously to a shared (not individualist) accumulation of cultural and social capital (cf. anthropologist-philosopher Pierre Bourdieu 1930-2002) that, although local, can extend well beyond just one community or form. One of the realities of living and ‘doing’ in Mongolia is that nothing can be achieved on one’s own. That goes for not only Khalkha Mongol people, but also their invited overseas guest.

In Mongolia respect for teachers, mentors or scholars is not feigned. It is heartfelt and often time also reverential. The investment of teachers in their students, whatever the particular thread, is not (yet) taken for granted. It could be a legacy of the Soviets or Mongol culture and its people. For me, the answer to this question of differentiation remains unclear. But the practice, oh the practice of honouring one’s teachers and important others—well, it just feels so wholesome, so healthy and so right!

Displays of respect are performed publicly and privately, at least that is how it is in the social spheres and communities to which I am drawn. Contemporary Khalkha Mongols are also somewhat flamboyant. They are not shy about singing a spontaneous song (or two) in public with a big bowl of airag (fermented mare’s milk) held elegantly and respectfully before them, cupped in both hands, or of expressing important heartfelt yearnings to others, be they female people or male people, when the context is conducive and feels right. Whereas here in Australia, a teacher may have been offered a handpicked apple as a gesture of respect, a nostalgic memory of years gone by, increased regulation of what is deemed suitable behaviour between students and teachers now generally discourages such spontaneous, nevertheless publicly performed and formal acknowledgements of respect—and affection.

In Mongolia, however, the situation is somewhat different. Most students and teachers still live proximally, so everyone knows who is who. Students are still free to give their local teachers gifts, spontaneously (modest or grand, depending on the family’s situation) when they feel they have learnt something new or achieved something special—in their own minds at least. Students get to express the sheer joy of their personal accomplishments, considerable or small though they may be, and the teacher is acknowledged for the preparatory instruction to what is now something well done.

Awards are more often than not accepted through the expressed honouring of elders and teachers directly involved.  Personal achievement is considered an accumulation of merit where both the passage of time and other people are always involved. Such micro-displays are spontaneous arisings. They are happening across Mongolia all of the time, all over the place. Fresh bunches of flowers, home made goat and sheep cheeses as well as other gifts are being presented as offerings of heartfelt respect to teachers, whatever the subject, whatever the age, whatever the time. If a particular person has a honourable reputation for being serious in their commitment to the teaching of others, then they are likely to attract such acknowledgement, accolades and other wholesome things.

It may not be enough to simply excel at doing something. In certain Mongolian community settings, it is also expected that one starts teaching (sometimes from an early age) what one has learnt from others and already knows. This is so that such jewels, whatever the size or extent of the sparkle, that have been acquired from one’s own elders, teachers and each other continue to circulate in and through the wider community. For more than a decade now,  I have spent a great deal of time with Khalkha children and adults of all ages—up to five generations of inter-locking and extended families in fact. It is from this participant-observer location, that I put forward my observations about a Khalkha practice of teaching and learning. I leave the veracity of my observations for others to consider and  judge.

In early post-socialist Mongolia,  this practice of acknowledgement still appears to be un-gendered. Beautifully assembled bunches of fresh flowers (imported from growers in China) are now offered by, and to, both women and men. The connotations in the Mongolian context are quite different however compared to the prevailing gendered and merchandising modelling of social behaviour promoted (in relation to the giving and accepting of flowers, for example) in the west. The closest equivalent I can think of, is that of the presentation of flowers to a diva after the conclusion of her performance, although in Mongolia such flowers can also be presented by an enthusiastic admirer to a teacher who may have a man’s body as well.

You see, I really like the way Mongol people openly perform their respect for certain teachers, artists, performers, mentors and friends. There is no need to go on and on about it: once it has been done, it is done. People don’t go on about it because it is an established (normalised) practice, not just the occasional exception to the rule. But making that moment, and deliberately and mindfully preparing for it—I really like what I see.

I like the continuity reflected across generations, as students strive to embody what they have been taught and attempt to integrate what they have learnt into their own innovations of previous practice into new, un-ossified and expressive forms. There is nothing static or fossilised in this teaching and learning process across the broader community of teaching and learning as it unfolds. Whatever students’ actualisation of their own potential, honour and respect (particularly towards one’s elders and our teachers) continues to play a pivotal, local transmission of tutelary lineage role. Ongoing reciprocity of responsibility and effort are at the heart of the task. 

With good teachers and teaching‘sometimes it is the very people who no one imagines who do the very things people cannot imagine.’ (A quote from the 2014 film The Imitation Game about Cambridge-trained mathematician Alan Turing (orated by Benedict Cumberbatch). Such an inspiring quote don’t you think?

I have always placed a high value on quality teaching, most likely because I have had the good fortune to have studied and worked with some of the best. In the preceding narrative about Artefacts—the more tangible outcomes of a scholarly process of production—and throughout this website, I have chosen to also honour my teachers, mentors, friends and colleagues. For without them, where would this particular collection of Artefacts and my other studies be?

In the simplest of terms, a vast array of important and interlocking post-socialist Mongolians-in-Mongolia ethnographic research narratives are now unfolding. And sometimes, one also has to work at the nexus of multiple institutions and their organisational orthodoxies for ‘innovation’ to not only be possible, but for it to be actualised and performed.  Through my small but focussed multi-sited contribution I hope to shed additional light onto this highly-complex cultural (and social) anthropological field.

© 2013-2019. CP in Mongolia. This post is licensed under the  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Documents linked from this page may be subject to other restrictions.   Posted: 14 January 2014. Last updated: 26 January 2019.