- Principal Investigator: Natalia Fedorova
- Site founded: 2019
Ulaanbaatar is the capital city of Mongolia, a historically pastoralist Central Asian country landlocked between two agrarian giants, Russia and China. In the 1990’s, Mongolia transitioned from a People’s republic to a multi-party state and introduced a market economy. In the fallout of this transition, the population of the capital city has more than doubled, with expansion mainly taking place in so-called ger districts: self-built, sprawling areas that feature a mixture of dwelling types and little infrastructure, inhabited largely by recent migrants with a variety of internal origin points and migration trajectories. Specifically, the ger districts consist of a combination of self-built wooden and brick houses, as well as gers, the mobile felt dwelling associated with central asian pastoralists. The growth of Ulaanbaatar is even more striking when we consider that its population (ca 1.5 million) now accounts for half of the total population of Mongolia. In the ger districts, people try to carve out a livelihood centered on the city, initially relying on informal and short term work, with frequent bouts of unemployment. However, people often maintain strong family ties to pastoralist communities, which involve complex flows of resources between the city and the steppe.
My research in Ulaanbaatar’s ger districts seeks to understand how inhabitants decide between different dwelling forms and how much to invest in them, in relation to demographic, socio-economic, and migration factors. This work aims to improve our understanding of the processes through which people become urban, and how the urban environment is constructed through them becoming so. I work with a project coordinator and large team of research assistants based in Ulaanbaatar, utilising a survey to collect household and plot level data.