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Human Ecology

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 23–35 | Cite as

Sedentarization as Constrained Adaptation: Evidence from Pastoral Regions in Far Northwestern China

  • Chuan LiaoEmail author
  • Ding Fei
Article

Abstract

This paper examines the effect of a state-led sedentarization scheme on pastoralist adaptation in northern Xinjiang, China. Drawing on surveys and semi-structured interviews with 159 Kazak pastoral households, our results indicate that socio-environmental challenges made extensive herding more tenuous but less profitable. Consequently, certain pastoralists voluntarily adopted sedentarization under state facilitation, although this process was accompanied with declines in household income and asset holdings. Our findings suggest that pastoralists were subject to the combined effects of institutional push and socio-environmental risks, making sedentarization seemingly the only viable choice. We thus argue that pastoral sedentarization in northern Xinjiang represents a constrained adaptation strategy. Future policy should build on pastoralists’ motivation to sedentarize and seek their knowledge to facilitate adaptive development in the pastoral regions.

Keywords

Pastoralism Adaptation Sedentarization Kazak China 

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Acknowledgments

This study was funded by the Towards Sustainability Foundation, the Sigma Xi Grant at Cornell University, and the Summer Fellowship from Department of Geography, Environment and Society at the University of Minnesota. We appreciate the Kazak pastoralists who generously shared their knowledge with us. We also thank Christopher Barrett, Kathleen Collins, Vinay Gidwani, Karim-Aly Kassam, Stephen Morreale, Abdi Samatar, Patrick Sullivan, and Xinshi Zhang for their support and advice on our research, as well as the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Natural Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of Michigan - Ann ArborAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geography, Environment and SocietyUniversity of Minnesota - Twin CitiesMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Minnesota Population CenterMinneapolisUSA

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