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The Power of Faulty Paperwork

Bureaucratic Negotiation, Land Access and Personal Innovation in Ulaanbaatar

In: Inner Asia
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While Mongolian citizens have a ‘right’ (erh) to receive a plot of urban land from their government, accessing and keeping land in Ulaanbaatar is not necessarily a clear-cut process. Situated in the confluence between the two main property regimes of temporary possession (ezemshil) as well as ownership (ömchlöl), this paper traces the slippages that occur as people attempt to make and hold onto land plots. It does this by ethnographically charting one person’s quest to secure legal ownership of their land. Here, the importance of cadastral mapping emerges as an essential but fraught practice that can either build or break the bridge between socially acquired land and the formation of its bureaucratic legitimacy. Securing the right map of this land forced a number of social, economic and bureaucratic issues into view, revealing how people negotiate uncertain bureaucratic processes, difficult physical terrain and fluctuating value in Ulaanbaatar’s commercialised land market.

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