Speaker Series – Jessica Madison: Golden Mountain, Iron Heap: A Poetic Ethnography of Extraction in Eastern Mongolia
November 21, 2017 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
About the speaker: Jessica Madison-Pískatá
Jessica Madison-Pískatá is a PhD student in cultural anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She also holds a MFA in poetry from the New School in New York City. She is currently based in Ulaanbaatar, where she will be conducting dissertation fieldwork until the summer of 2018. She first arrived in Mongolia in 2011, when she worked for two years as a United States Peace Corps volunteer in Sukhbaatar Aimag, and has split her time between the U.S. and Mongolia since then. Her research interests include the intersection of human creativity and environmental justice in the context of global climate change, particularly in the way local theories of landscape can broaden our understanding of the multiplicity inherent in human/non-human relations.
This paper focuses on a central puzzle: how does what otherwise appears to be a harmonious “magical ecology” accommodate a zinc mine? How can a tradition that sacralizes the unbroken earth also name mines after mountains? Considering both mountain and mine as different kinds of ovoo, nodes that function as both “energy centers” and “sacrifice zones” within the landscape, the paper interfaces with local theories that illuminate poetry to be a creator of worlds, and highlights the ambivalence, ambiguity, and poetic irony of mineral extraction in Mongolia. This paper explores Mongolia’s mineral extraction boom through an examination of local concepts of landscape. In order to engage seriously with local place-making practices, it analyzes the steppe topologically, looking at attributes of landscape that transcend material upheaval. In eastern Mongolia, poetry is a primary means of mediating human interaction with space, and thus poetic literacy is necessary for producing and understanding knowledge that turns space into landscape.
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.
Co-Sponsored by the American Cultural and Information Center, Ulaanbaatar