Seminar – 20 January – Hurelbaatar Ujeed

January 19th, 2015 by


Tuesday 20 January

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Hurelbaatar Ujeed

Inner Mongolia Normal University

Transforming and Traditionalising: Modernisation of the Old Barga People


The Old Barga are one of the oldest of the Mongolian nomadic peoples. Their homeland, from the 18th century, the Old Barga Banner, is situated on the border between China and Russia. As a result of Chinese and Southern Mongolian immigration to the area in the last century, they became a minority of approximately 10,000 in population and gradually became underprivileged even amongst other Mongolian peoples. However, with China’s recent economic development and socio-political as well as cultural makeover Old Barga has been undergoing an unusual  transformation.

In this process, Old Barga people’s ethnic culture and tradition is actively preserved, revived and recreated as an anchor against the uprooting effects of transformation and modernisation. As with many societies, 20th century modernisation meant a degree of loss of traditional culture. But now, in response, there is a conscious effort to preserve what is seen as cultural heritage, rituals and traditions with which they are regaining lost privileges. The passive elements of culture have degraded with modernisation; but the active elements have grown stronger and are more thoroughly observed. In particular, Old Barga identity, social networks and solidarity have come to revolve strongly around the ideas and practice of traditional clan structure, historical and cultural landscapes, clan oboos, and ancestor tombs.

Old Barga people are not passive in the process of their transformation, but rather active, adapting and taking the opportunity through “traditionalising” to strengthen their culture and regional identity.  These days Barga people are not declining (at least at the moment) but expanding and strengthening by both actively revitalising tradition and taking the chances offered by the new economic development and modernisation, they are reclaiming and legitimising  their rights, dignity, pride among outsiders: Southern Mongols and Chinese, who held most of the political, social and economic privileges in the past century.

Now Old Bargas are reconstructing roots in their homeland – an economic base and cultural heritage which other people don’t have – and they are also actively accumulating in the wider economy, in which they participate along with other people.

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