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The ANU Mongolia Institute is hosting an interdisciplinary series of presentations on Mongolia beginning in May 2020.
This is an online event.
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The significance of the marmot and the plague to herding communities in Mongolia - Dr Natasha Fijn
With the recent coronavirus pandemic, we have been alerted to the rapid spread of lethal zoonoses, diseases that can cross the species barrier. When it comes to the plague, there is generally a focus on medical studies relating to the bacteria that causes the plague, Yersinia pestis; or the history of the emergence of the plague amongst humans, such as the Black Death in Europe during the Middle Ages.
The focus within this paper, however, is on the Mongolian herding community and their perceptions with regard to health and illness, particularly when considering the carrier of the plague, the marmot (Marmota sibirica, or tarvagan).
Although the Mongolian government discourages the hunting and consumption of marmot, many herders persist in both hunting and eating them. Mongolians have a long historical and cultural connection with them, as well as attributing many health benefits through the consumption of different body parts of the marmot.
What are the tensions between policies implemented through institutional biomedical practices with the perceptions of health and wellbeing amongst the Mongolian herding community? This paper diverges from a focus on the human, or the plague itself, to consider multiple species, particularly in relation to the marmot.