Repair: Mongolian Art as Reimagination of the Pastoral Identity

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Author: Jamie N. Sanchez, Biola University, USA
Email: jamie.sanchez@biola.edu
Published: April 4, 2020
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijcs.5.1.05

Citation: Sanchez, J. N. (2020). Repair: Mongolian Art as Reimagination of the Pastoral Identity. IAFOR Journal of Cultural Studies, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijcs.5.1.05


Abstract

Many Mongols in Northern China grapple with threats to their cultural identity. Ongoing economic development, rapid urbanization, Hanification, and the state’s historical assimilation policies threaten a distinct Mongolian cultural identity. One way that Mongols grapple with “cultural identity anxiety,” is through representation. Material culture has become one mode to represent a distinct cultural identity and to uphold distinct ethnic boundaries. In this article, I analyze a piece of material culture in cartoon art form, titled “Repair,” by Mongolian artist Babilig. I use cultural and political theory, historical shifts in Inner Mongolia, and Chinese state discourse and ideologies to demonstrate why material culture is used to construct and represent Mongolian cultural identity. I demonstrate how the artist uses different elements in piece of art critique the impact of the Chinese state’s rapid urbanization on Mongol cultural space. I also posit that a distinct Mongolian cultural identity is promoted to debunk the long held Chinese state discourse in which Han are promoted over Mongols. Additionally, I argue that, ultimately, the representation of Mongols as reimagined pastoralists justifies state economic and urbanization policies aimed at ushering Inner Mongolia, and the Mongols who live there, into modernization.

Keywords

Inner Mongolia, China, Mongols, material culture, cultural identity