Human Ecology

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 297–317 | Cite as

Patchwork, Pastoralists, and Perception: Dune Sand as a Valued Resource Among Herders of Inner Mongolia

  • Dee Mack Williams


Scholars have rarely reflected upon dune sand in any context other than that of environmental hazard. Yet recent anthropological research conducted among ethnic Mongol herders in the Keerqin Sandy Lands of Northeast China indicates that native inhabitants exhibit a surprising degree of tolerance, appreciation, and even preference for dune sand at specific spatio-temporal scales. Survey data, gathered primarily through the use of photographic prompts and pile sort exercises during household interviews, reveal that many residents even regard dune sand as the constituent element of a distinctive home environment and cherished way of life. This research underscores the relevance of perception to the policies and practices of human resource management. It also calls into question the authority with which officials and scholars in China and elsewhere indiscriminantly depreciate the various social utilities of dune sand in stock-herding populations.

China desertification environmental perception grasslands place consciousness 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dee Mack Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyChapel Hill

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