Previously, I asked "How ancestral is Mongolian pastoralism?"
The essay by Sneath listed below creates an interesting dichotomy between the Mongolian practices at the level of the individual family and those at the level of the tribal and governmental hierarchy. Basically, he describes a relatively unchanging sphere of day to day life interacting with a dynamic sphere of organization that has gone through several revolutions but leaves the first sphere unchanged. Basically, he says that whether the organizing principle is the Manchu dynasty or Communist collectives, it deals with nomadic herders on their own terms. BUT, he is also quite clear that our romantic notion of Mongolian nomads is not right and that the nomads have been living with systems of hierarchies that constrain their freedom since before the time of Genghis Khan.
"Such societies commonly develop a conscious and explicit nomadic ethos, which values mobility and the ability to cope with problems by moving away from threats or toward resources and which disparages permanent settlement, cultivation of the earth, and accumulation of objects." (LOC, 75)
"Every Mongol family in the countryside used to keep dogs, which were large and fierce because their chief duty was to guard the flocks against wolves; but they were also a danger to travelers. I have had them jump to saddle height to attack me, even when I was riding a camel." (Lattimore, 140)
"Finally, there are the dogs, which are exceptionally ferocious. The traveller arriving at a settlement is wise to stay inside the car until the villagers have come out and driven them off." (Bitsch, 50)
Bitsch, J. (1962) Mongolia, Unknown Land (Trans. R. Spink) New York: Dutton.
Lattimore, O. (1962) Nomads and Commissars. New York: Oxford U Press.
LOC Federal Research Division. (1991) Mongolia: A Country Study. (Ed. L.R. Mortimer) Washington: Library of Congress.
Sneath, D. (1999) "Mobility, Technology, and Decollectivization of Pastoralism in Mongolia" in Mongolia in the Twentieth Century: Landlocked Cosmopolitan (Ed. Kotkin & Elleman). New York: ME Sharpe.