Musical Interactions between Humans, Animals, and Others in Mongolia


On Wooden Horses: Musical Interactions between Humans, Animals, and Others in Post-Socialist Mongolia

This paper examines the roles and meanings of musical heritage in lived experiences of post-socialism. Drawing upon one year of ethnographic research, 'On Wooden Horses' explores how people in Mongolia manage relationships with livestock, landscape, and spirits musically.

I focus on three vignettes from my dissertation fieldwork in particular, highlighting some of the ways Mongolian herders and musicians are using musical heritage to navigate ruptures and challenges presented by increasing urbanization and transformations to herding economies as well as areas of flux, such as the confluence of socialist and post-socialist ideas about religion and spirituality.

Throughout these examples, musical heritage in Mongolia stands as a mediator through which people make sense of, and interact with, the non-human forces that have sway in their everyday lives, from soaring mountain peaks to sheep reluctant to nurse, from supernatural entities to urban sprawl.

Speaker: Kip Hutchins

Kip is a Ph.D student in cultural anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He is currently based out of Ulaanbaatar, undertaking fieldwork for his dissertation until the summer of 2018. He has been working with horse-head fiddle players and teachers, long-song singers, and herders in central and eastern Mongolia since 2010.

Kip's research interests are focused on the role of musical performance in the restructuring of nomadic pastoralism in 21st century Mongolia. Kip is currently a Cultural Heritage Research Fellow with the American Center for Mongolian Studies, and has been affiliated with the organization since he first began working in Mongolia.


The American Center for Mongolian Studies (ACMS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting scholarship in Mongolian Studies. The ACMS Speaker Series are organized in partnership with the U.S. Embassy and the Natsagdorj Library and provides an important platform for researchers engaged in Mongolia to share their experiences and findings with the public. The event promotes information exchange on a variety of subjects related to Mongolia and is free and open to the public.

Where: American Corner, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

When: Tuesday, Dec 19th, 2017, 5:30-7:00 p.m.

Co-Sponsored by the American Corner, Ulaanbaatar

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