In this twentieth session of CARG we read Fear and Fortune: Spirit Worlds and Emerging Economies in the Mongolian Gold Rush by Mette High. The book addresses the social and moral implication of the Mongolian gold rush, and touches upon issues of volatility and uncertainty at the resource frontier.
High, Mette M. 2017. Fear and Fortune: Spirit Worlds and Emerging Economies in the Mongolian Gold Rush. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Description from Cornell University Press:
Mongolia over the last decade has seen a substantial and ongoing gold rush. The widespread mining of gold looks at first glance to be a blessing for a desperately poor and largely pastoralist country where people's lives were disrupted by the end of the USSR and tens of millions of livestock were killed in devastating droughts in the early 2000s. Volatility and uncertainty as well as political and economic turmoil led many people to join the hopeful search for gold. This activity, born out of uncertain times, poses an intense moral problem; in the "land of dust," disturbing the ground and extracting the precious metal is widely believed to have calamitous consequences. With gold retaining strong ties to the landscape and its many spirit beings, the fortune of the precious metal is inseparable from the fears that surround mining. Tracing the continuities and discontinuities between human and nonhuman worlds, Mette M. High follows the paths of gold as it is excavated and converted into "polluted money," entering local shops and Buddhist monasteries, joining the illegal gold trade, and returning as "renewed" money for the "big bosses" of the gold mines.