"We are all insects on the back of our motherland" is a study of movement in space and the construction of place among the Halh nomads of Arhangai in Mongolia. The main concern is to explore how the manifestation of place and how the Halh nomads' movement in space can be seen as intrinsically tied up with notions of temporality, endurance and hierarchy. Quintessential to this study is the ger, their dwelling, the significant place for Halh nomads. The thesis explore the dialectic relationship between the ger as a bounded place enmeshed with ontological significance and the socially produced relational spaces of this place. It analyses how spatial constructs and ideas about social relations impart an 'order' mediated and manifested by, on the one hand, the structural qualities of place and, on the other hand, the processual qualities of space. Hence, while the ger as a contained place provides the frame-work for contextual negotiation of significant values and the relational aspect of order, space can be seen as the medium.
By way of analysis of the spatio-symbolic divisions of the ger and how people locate themselves and move in relation to these divisions, this study shows how the constructed values of social and spatial order are grounded in a hierarchic social and cosmological universe. Thus, the hierarchical relations of values manifested in the spatial array of the ger emerge as a significant focus for the continuous production, re-production and construction of meaning and social relations. The relational aspect of space and place is explored through a focus on four different aspects which form part of Halh nomad social organisation: spatial and social prescriptions; movement between seasonal pastures; kinship and; the hierarchical ordering of values.
Notable to this study is the fact that Halh nomads have a mobile life-style based on seasonal movement of people, livestock and property from one place in the landscape to another. A study of place and space among Halh nomads must necessarily be pursued with a sensitivity to the fact that the ideas and values of temporality and mobility are essential to their 'being-in-the world'. Yet, as this thesis explore, these values are in a constant dynamic relationship with the values of stability and endurance. As will emerge from the following pages, the ideal value of equilibrium is a matter of an on-going balance - of maintaining order and preventing dis-order. In the following analysis of Halh nomads' use of space, of place and movement, this 'balancing' works as an underlying premise for their social and spatial organisation.