In recent years, herders in rural communities in Inner Mongolia and Mongolia have faced difficulties in accessing drinking water. In both cases, they have turned to informal life politics to solve local problems. These have aimed to preserve their lives, livelihoods, and cultural survival through self-help actions. They have been based on personal responses to social and environmental crises, rather than on any political ideology. In Inner Mongolia, local herders collaborated with outsiders to conduct several community science projects that tested well-water. In Mongolia, herders worked together to plant trees in order to preserve groundwater.
Through these case studies, this paper will explore how informal life politics work in Inner Mongolia and Mongolia. It will examine how people in these regions connect to each other through informal life politics, how they deal with real-word problems by creating locally-grounded knowledge, and how formal political systems respond to informal life politics. Based on participatory action research conducted between 2014 and 2017, it will present two main findings: first, the critical role of local, personal networks in informal life politics; and second, the negative effect on informal life politics of the politically sensitive atmosphere in Inner Mongolia.
Dr Uchralt Otede is a PhD Candidate in the School of Culture, History and Language, at ANU's College of Asia and the Pacific. His research is part of the ARC Laureate Project 'Informal Life Politics'. He received a PhD degree in social science from Hitotsubashi University, Japan, in 2009.