Degree completed in 2016.

The changing meaning of work, herding, and social relations in Mongolia: a study of value transformations and conditions for social change

  • Supervisors: Dr Troy Sternberg; Professor Craig Jeffrey; Prof. Dawn Chatty (QEH, Oxford);
  • Member: Landscape Dynamics research cluster;


Academic Profile

Ariell is a DPhil candidate at the School for Geography and the Environment and a member of the Transformations Research Cluster. She holds a BA degree in Anthropology from Hartwick College and an MPA from Cornell University in the United States. Her current research focuses on the rural economy and political administration in Mongolia. She is broadly interested in mobile pastoralism, the anthropology of the state, and the political economy of the household. Committed to a collaborative ethnographic approach, she spent 2013-2013 working with herders in rural Central-West Mongolia.

Her supervisors are Prof Craig Jeffrey (Geography), Dr Troy Sternberg (Geography), and Dr Dawn Chatty (International Development/Refugee Studies).

Ariell is an Research Assistant for the Oxford Learning Institute's longitudinal study, titled "The next generation of academic science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) scientists: Why remain in today's pressurised academic labour market?"

She also works as a Research Assistant in the Blavatnik School of Government.

  • 2014 - Wenner Gren Workshop Funding for "Localities and Livelihoods in Asian Drylands" to support 10 indigenous scholars from Asia.
  • 2012-2013 - US Department of State Foreign Language Scholarships for Mongolian Language.

Current Research

Ariell's dissertation explores the changing meaning of work, herding, and social relations in rural Mongolia. The original idea for the research project emerged from observations over the course of 2004-2006 of encounters between international development experts and foreign experts working in Mongolia who portrayed mobile pastoralists as being 'caught in the cross hairs' of changing economic and governance systems. This characterization of change was especially prevalent in the US media after severe national livestock loss during winter disasters in 1999-2002 and 2010, which influenced a number of formal studies on alternative forms of resource and environmental management systems for herders and advocated for Western-based interventions to re-format the social basis of work practices.

By using ethnographic methods and grounded theory based on extensive participant observation in the local language, her research explores the role of pastoralism and rural work as a medium of social reproduction for families in rural Mongolia and the ways that indigenous interpretative frameworks relate with and drawn on broad economic and political processes, such as new forms of governance and technology, finance, and other creative improvisations or innovations in order to access needed resources and maintain social continuity.

Current Teaching