Linking Social and Spatial Mobilities: An exploration of outcomes and expectations for rural-origin Kazakh ethnic minority migrants in Mongolia

Authors: Holly Barcus*, Macalester College
Topics: Migration, Asia, Ethnic Geography
Keywords: Migration, social mobility, Asia, ethnicity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Gallier B, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The “mobilities turn” in Geography has signaled a shifting of conceptualizations of linkages between spatial and social mobilities. One of the primary assumptions of migration studies, and of migrants themselves, is that the benefits of migrating will outweigh the costs. Implicitly this means that migrants expect that the efforts and sacrifices of relocating to a distant location will result in social and economic betterment for themselves and their families. Migration away from a rural home place often breaks these networks, forcing migrants to reassemble social networks in their destinations. Ethnic minority populations from rural places may be particularly disadvantaged because they are outsiders to both the urban environment (they must learn about the urban environment and re-create social networks) and outsiders to the dominant ethnic group (thus subject to potential discrimination). Using a case study of the ethnic minority Kazakh population in Mongolia, this paper utilizes life history and structured interview data collected in 2015 and 2016 to begin to assess the social mobilities of recent rural-origin migrants to Ulaanbaatar. We employ a narrative approach to understanding varied forms of mobility, including social and geographic mobilities, for ethnic minority migrants moving from a remote minority-majority province to the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. Learning more about how the ethnic minority Kazakh population is negotiating both geographic and social mobilities in the rapidly changing economic environment of Ulaanbaatar can shed light on the challenges and opportunities for social mobility for ethnic minority populations in developing and transitioning countries.

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