May 10, 2016
– Starting at 5:30 pm
What can a single building in central Ulaanbaatar reveal about the bricolage of social, political and material transformations at play within in Ulaanbaatar today?
In the wake of socialism and colonialism, a rich vein of transitology offers us array of concepts through which to render the potentialities of space, place, networks and meanings as they are yoked to temporal transformations. Amidst a burgeoning discourse on urban planning in Ulaanbaatar, I present this paper as a means to initiate discussion on the very material basis of emergent and unintended transformations in a rapidly developing urban society.
The grey carcass of the building in question looms imposingly over the political, cultural and now bustling business heart of the Mongolian Capital. Straining skywards since the height of a mining-led investment boom in Mongolia, the structure currently stands unfinished and dormant, ringed by diminutive apartment buildings that once housed high-ranking members of socialist society. As the construction protrudes from one of the most intensive sites of socialism in Mongolia, it has attracted questions over legitimacy of land transfers and planning permissions within the capital.
In tracing the swimming potentialities of this structure single structure, we can witness how it continues to invoke peculiar intensities of political networks that emerged from the socialist political economy as arteries and organs that can no longer function to support an ideal body, if they ever fully did. From and with these disrupted material and social remnants, a new array of forms also continues to emerge, which themselves remain visibly incomplete or decaying vis-à-vis their idealized natures.
Following these trajectories, this paper initiates discussion of a politics of urban development that draws epistemological and ethical import from the capacity to productively resist closure, excavate interiority and render salient the contradictions that beset and are productively constitutive of an array of new ideal and wholesome forms of politics, space and society in Ulaanbaatar.