GCRF-ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow

Academic Profile

Ariell is an ESRC-GCRF postdoctoral fellow at the School for Geography and the Environment and a member of the Transformations Research Cluster. She completed her DPhil from the School for Geography in February 2016. She holds a BA degree in Anthropology from Hartwick College and an MPA from Cornell University in the United States.

Since 2004, Ariell has worked extensively in rural Mongolia with mobile pastoralist communities around land use and rural development issues. She engages with a broad range of individuals and groups, from government officials to business owners and NGOs to rural households. Her doctoral thesis, 'The Changing Meaning of Work, Herding and Social Relations in Rural Mongolia' challenges the notion that pastoralists operate outside of regulatory institutions and discusses the long history of herder involvement with government administrations.

In 2016 she engaged as an expert on a multi-disciplinary team to conduct a qualitative analysis of herder livelihoods and socio-economic changes in relation to the Oyu Tolgoi mega mine in the Gobi desert as part of the facilitation of a complaint through the IFC's Office of Compliance Ombudsman. From this work, Ariell's research focus has become concerned with understanding processes of engagement between rural households and governing entities such as corporations and state organizations.

Current Research

Ariell's current research aims to understand the relationship between social systems, resource distribution and governance frameworks in regions undergoing economic transformation. She specializes in qualitative research, using methods such as ethnographic participant observation, interviewing, mapping and immersive field work to document and analyze the conditions that inform human decision-making and organization. Her current projects cluster around the following themes:

1. Pastoralism

Pastoralists live in dryland environments around the world, the majority of which are in developing countries which face challenges around land tenure, discrimination against mobile livelihoods, marginalization from social services, and climate hazards such as drought and winter disasters (dzud). Ariell's research focuses on how pastoralists engage with governing authorities to negotiate their rights to practice mobility and secure open access land tenure. Her research in this area involves interdisciplinary partnerships to address issues around resource access for pastoralists and how they mitigate livelihood risks in variable environmental and economic settings.

As part of this research, she has been committed to doing capacity building for scholars of pastoralism who are based in Asia and the Middle East. In 2015, she secured funding from the Wenner Gren Foundation to bring 10 scholars of pastoralism from Oman, India, Pakistan, Mongolia, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria to attend the 3rd Desert Conference and attend the writing workshop, "Localities and Livelihoods in Asian Drylands: Pastoralism in an Era of Climatic, Economic, and Social Change." Their work is now being published in the edited volume, Pastoralist Livelihoods in Asian Drylands: Environment, Governance and Risk (see below).

2. Borderland geographies

Ariell's research on borderland geographies is currently being developed through John Fell funding for a GCRF Incubator called "China's Frontier: Institutions, Infrastructure and Landscapes in New Silk Road Nations". This project aims to understand the China's new investment programme in the One Belt-One Road, but from the point of view of border states and regions, specifically Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. These regions are home to pastoralist and minority groups and face issues around water scarcity and other environmental risks. This research programme aims to work in collaboration with local stakeholders (governments, NGOs, universities) to understand the landscapes, institutions and infrastructures of these borderland regions.

3. Environmental Governance

This research theme cross-cuts Ariell's interest in pastoralism, Mongolia and borderland geographies. Based on long-term ethnographic research in Mongolia and elsewhere, Ariell engages with performativity theory and the concept of improvisation to deconstruct the idea of the state and the analytical divisions between state-society or private-public spaces. Her research on patron-client relations and the formation of groups and alliances between groups informs these theoretical engagements.

Teaching

Ariell supervises master's students in SoGE and the Saïd Business School. In Michaelmas 2016, she taught an elective course called Environmental Governance and Development.

Selected Publications

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Books

Journal Articles

  • Ahearn, A. (forthcoming) A condensed history of the public administration of pastoralism in Mongolia. Nomadic Peoples.
  • Sternberg, T., Ahearn, A. and McConnell, F. (2017) Central Asian ‘Characteristics’ on China’s New Silk Road: The Role of Landscape and the Politics of Infrastructure. Land, 6(55): 1-16. (This article belongs to the Special Issue 'Arid Land Systems: Sciences and Societies').
  • Ahearn, A. (2016) The role of kinship in negotiating territorial rights: exploring claims for winter pasture ownership in Mongolia. Inner Asia, 18: 245-264.
  • Ahearn, A. and Bumochir, D. (2016) Contradictions in schooling children among Mongolian pastoralists. Human Organization, 75(1): 87-96.

Book Chapters

Reports

Book Reviews

  • Ahearn, A. (2016) Review of Caroline Dyer, Livelihoods and Learning: Education for All and the Marginalization of Mobile Pastoralists. Nomadic Peoples, 20(4): 287-290.