We examine contradictions of populism and resource extraction in Mongolia in the context of the recent presidential election of Khaltmaa Battulga, who is often portrayed as dangerously populist. We consider Battulga’s victory as an echo of Mongolian voters’ sense of dispossession and discontent driven by gross wealth disparity and precarious livelihoods. Rather than treating these concerns as mere tools of the populist political agenda, we view them as moments of resistance to the asymmetry between accumulation and dispossession in Mongolia, a central outcome of twenty-five years of the neoliberal regime. We situate our analysis of Mongolia’s resource politics through an examination of the world’s second largest undeveloped copper–gold mine, Oyu Tolgoi. The mine offers a window into the country’s turbulent resource politics that has concentrated wealth among a powerful few while nearly one third of Mongolians remain trapped in vicious poverty. Relying on fieldwork conducted over several years, the article argues that public grievances against the asymmetry of accumulation and dispossession are routinely discounted by discursive tools within the populist paradigm. “Resource nationalism,” in particular, is used by those who promote neoliberalism and the open market as a pejorative label to silence public grievances. Key Words: accumulation by dispossession, Mongolia, Oyu Tolgoi, populism, resource nationalism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Earth-Surface Processes