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Domesticating the Belt and Road: rural development, spatial politics, and animal geographies in Inner Mongolia


White, Thomas (2020). Domesticating the Belt and Road: rural development, spatial politics, and animal geographies in Inner Mongolia. Eurasian Geography and Economics, 61(1):13-33.

Abstract

China’s Belt and Road Initiative has led to an efflorescence of interest in the heritage of the “Silk Road,” both in China and abroad. In this article, I approach the BRI and its associated “Silk Road fever” ethnographically, discussing its effects on a particular region of China. What was once characterized in official discourse as a “remote border region” is now recover- ing its history of camel-based connectivity, and using this to imagine its future development. I situate this Silk Road dis- course within the context of the politics of land, ethnicity, and the environment in a Chinese border region. Drawing on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in this region, and analysis of local publications, the article shows how this discourse provides ethnic Mongol elites in the west of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region with resources to defend pastoralist livelihoods threatened by the state’s recent grassland conservation policies. I thus show how the BRI’s spatial imaginary is “domesticated” in a particular part of China, and shine a light on the spatial politics which this imaginary – and the nonhumans involved in it – affords.

Abstract

China’s Belt and Road Initiative has led to an efflorescence of interest in the heritage of the “Silk Road,” both in China and abroad. In this article, I approach the BRI and its associated “Silk Road fever” ethnographically, discussing its effects on a particular region of China. What was once characterized in official discourse as a “remote border region” is now recover- ing its history of camel-based connectivity, and using this to imagine its future development. I situate this Silk Road dis- course within the context of the politics of land, ethnicity, and the environment in a Chinese border region. Drawing on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in this region, and analysis of local publications, the article shows how this discourse provides ethnic Mongol elites in the west of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region with resources to defend pastoralist livelihoods threatened by the state’s recent grassland conservation policies. I thus show how the BRI’s spatial imaginary is “domesticated” in a particular part of China, and shine a light on the spatial politics which this imaginary – and the nonhumans involved in it – affords.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
390 Customs, etiquette & folklore
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Geography, Planning and Development
Social Sciences & Humanities > Economics and Econometrics
Uncontrolled Keywords:Belt and Road Initiative, China, Inner Mongolia, pastoralism, space, development
Language:English
Date:2020
Deposited On:31 Jan 2021 15:56
Last Modified:01 Feb 2021 21:00
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:1538-7216
Additional Information:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Eurasian Geography and Economics on 29 Jan 2020, available online: http://wwww.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15387216.2020.1720761?journalCode=rege20.
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/15387216.2020.1720761
Official URL:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15387216.2020.1720761?journalCode=rege20

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