Mongolia Week 4: Expectations

    The average age of Ulaanbaatar’s residents seems to be very young. Though I first arrived at this conclusion through simple observation and a general notion, this was a fact that was later confirmed for me by a cursory look at recent census statistics. Not only have births per year increased leading to a continuously younger populace, but upwardly mobile youths are more and more frequently leaving their home in the countryside of Mongolia to live and work in Ulaanbaatar. In my role of supervising the conducting of Gallup’s annual World Poll, I have gotten the chance to speak to and see how many of these young migrants feel about their decisions and the city they’ve come to inhabit, which in turn has colored my perceptions of the young metropolitanism that has come to define my experience in Mongolia.

[Read more…]

Mongolia Week 3: Anxiety

    On the fifth floor of my combined office/living space is a little fenced-off area on the building’s dropped rooftop, where someone had laid out several strips of astroturf and left behind a few rickety metal tables and chairs. While it is an area most frequently occupied at night by small contingents of teens and young adults huddled together smoking cigarettes, if one waits late enough into the night and braves the cold that is so typical of a Mongolian night even deep into the summer, they are treated to an uninterrupted and uniquely isolated view of the city and sky.

[Read more…]

Mongolia Week 2: Nausea

Travelling to the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar on a trip to verify myself to Mongolian Immigration Services, I felt sick. Our driver insisted on keeping the windows of his car open, and as the tiny, run-down Toyota bounced off of curbs and weaved itself in and out of the near-gridlock that had come to define inner-city driving in my mind, I became increasingly nauseous as exhaust belched from old two-stroke engines seeped into the cabin. Like increasingly-restricted arteries in an circulatory network, drivers moving out of the city found themselves jammed onto ramps and highways far too narrow to accommodate the sheer density of people. The sun filtered directly onto me, and with minimal movement, everything slowly became uncomfortably hot and stifling. In that moment, I wanted out of the car, out of the elements, and out of the city, into the vast, rolling foothills of the countryside that you could see peeking out between innumerable construction projects and towers that make up Ulaanbaatar.

[Read more…]

Mongolia Week 1: Containment

The first thing I noticed upon touchdown in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia was a sense of self-containment. Not in a restrictive sense, but the city being surrounded on all sides by a snow-dappled mountain range makes UB (as it is affectionately called by some of its residents) feel like a bubble, a microcosm of the world at large. Similarly, my walks through the city (both voluntary and extemporaneous due to difficult interactions with Ulaanbaatar’s taxi service) revealed to me regions and districts that lace together into a self-sustaining yet multifaceted whole.

[Read more…]

No Future, No Resurrection: Islam, Hauntology, and the Death of Futurism

Society has become increasingly incapable of envisioning new conceptions of the future following the “death of history” with the fall of the Soviet Union. What has followed has been a global dominance of liberal capitalism and a return to nostalgic ideations within futurist thought, as demonstrated by the popularity of films like “Ready Player One,” rather than new means by which to envision the future. This paper will investigate how this sentiment has impacted the tradition of Muslim futurist thought, their conceptualization of Islam’s place many years from now, and how an uptick in Islamophobia in discourse has shifted these ideas to parallel the development of the modern Afrofuturist movement.

[Read more…]