Home Institution

University of Richmond

Publication Date

Spring 2013

Program Name

Mongolia: Geopolitics and the Environment


In this inductive ethnographic study, I explore the unique social and theological pressures placed on Mongolian Buddhists after the wake of free market transition in Mongolia. It utilizes the Buddhist virtue of compassion as a lens by which the study might examine how Mongolians balance their spirituality and commitment to Buddhist ethics with new roles as rational agents in an emergent free market. In this study I draw on narratives from thirteen subjects as well as extensive participant observation to examine the ways that Mongolian market reform has guided social paradigms of ethic that present ethical contradictions with Buddhist dharma, how Buddhist Mongolians interact with these paradigms, and how they seek to reconcile their roles in a market economy with their religious values.

First, texts, lectures, and accounts from interviewees provide insight into the significance of Buddhism to Mongolian culture, tradition, and heritage. Interview data then elucidates common perceptions of the meaning of compassion in Buddhism and how to practice the ethic in everyday life. Interviewees provide information on the influences of capitalism and free market economics in Mongolia. They explore perceived differences in how Mongolia has changed since the Democratic Revolution and shed light on the application of Dharma in the current post-Soviet socioeconomic context. Finally, I analyze the effects of market transition in post-socialist Ulaanbaatar with critical social theory focused on social strain and disharmonious ethical paradigms, and present possible explanations for observed social phenomena. The study seeks to further the developing conversation of how Mongolian culture and heritage will change in a globalizing world.


Asian Studies | Community-Based Learning | Family, Life Course, and Society | Growth and Development | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Sociology of Culture


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