Pastoralism and Institutional Change in Inner Asia: Comparative Perspectives from the MECCIA Research Project

Research reports and studies
January 1996
Caroline Humphrey and David Sneath

In this paper we outline some of the findings which have emerged from the Cambridge MacArthur ‘Environmental and Cultural Conservation in Inner Asia’ (ECCIA) project. The project was carried out in collaboration with a number of Inner Asian research institutions with the aim of comparing environmental, cultural and administrative conditions throughout Inner Asia, in an attempt to learn lessons for sustainable pastoral development in the region. The people of Inner Asia are currently reforming their pastoral economic systems in line with their governments’ policies. A comparative investigation of their different experiences is important for evaluating the variety of reform options currently being undertaken, and for projecting their likely future effects on society and the environment. For this research the ECCIA project brought together young researchers from a variety of environmental and social sciences, including specialists from the areas covered. The aim was to ensure that the project incorporated a maximum number of regional perspectives and discussions. To obtain both in-depth knowledge and a wide understanding of major processes we used a series of detailed case studies carried out by individual researchers, in conjunction with comparative overviews of topics including land use, institutional change, mobility, social organisation and settlement patterns.

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