Last night I was very pleased to join the American Center for Mongolian Studies “Scholar’s Corner” at the Blue Sky Hotel.
The events are intended as an informal way for scholars and others interested in research on Mongolia to gather on a monthly basis.
We had a crowd of about 20-25, I think. I am told that it was a slightly more formal session than usual.
I opened up the discussion by saying a little bit about two projects that I’m starting: a census of private primary and secondary schools in Ulaanbaatar, and the role of soum citizens halls in budget decisions and democratization.
I also couldn’t resist some musings about what I see as a big dynamic in current Mongolia (or certainly central Ulaanbaatar), namely the extent to which Mongolians now seem to be internalizing rules and regulations and how I see that as a sign of the rationalization of contemporary life and social relations. Examples that I mentioned or that others contributed include: obedience to bus lane regulations, even-odd license plate driving restrictions, and the smoking ban. Some participants agreed with the general gist of this view.
The discussion then veered towards politics, voting, party democracy and other political developments. One of the questions that came up was whether there are generational cleavages among voters and their support for particular parties. Some observed that the DP used to be attractive to younger voters because they were seen as the reforming party, but as their leadership maintains its hold on party power, there may be opportunities for the MPP to reform itself first with younger cadres, to then be perceived as a more business-friendly party.
The sense that Mongolian political parties continue to lack an ideological foundation/definition was also discussed with some views on the pragmatist preferences of Mongolian voters.
Fortunately, the Blue Sky Lounge also serves a nice cold beer so that the discussion wasn’t quite as serious at all times as it may sound here.
It was a delight to meet a number of foreign and Mongolian students and researchers, and it is very clear to me that lots of interesting research is being done in Mongolia where the pace of social change is such that there is lots of room for more research!