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Infrastructure development and urbanisation in pastoralist Amdo (a research report)

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The past two decades have seen massive investments in infrastructure development in China's western regions. Formerly hard to access, the remote grasslands of the Amdo region in Sichuan Province are today incorporated into an ever-growing road network, which connects dispersed summer and winter pastures with township centres and outlying townships with county towns, prefecture towns and, by extension, with provincial capitals and the national transportation system. Infrastructural development impacts on economic development not only in terms of access to markets, but also the basic mobility patterns of pastoralists. This paper elucidates the interrelationships between transportation infrastructure development, motorisation and urbanisation. I argue that motorisation plays an important role in the incorporation of nomads into the newly constructed settlements and the urban spaces of Amdo. The motorisation of pastoralist households, which developed alongside road construction, has produced new mobility patterns and facilitated novel types of movement. Pastoralists use motorised vehicles to maintain communication with townspeople and to access public spaces in urban centres. Accounts of urbanisation processes in pastoral regions cannot ignore the pastoralists who still live outside urban centres, but for whom motorisation and construction of roads has facilitated a wholly different level of access to urban areas that are, in multiple ways, inscribing urban forms onto the nomads' lands.
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Keywords: Amdo; infrastructure development; mobility; motorisation; pastoralism; roads; urbanisation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2015

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  • Nomadic Peoples is an international journal published by the White Horse Press for the Commission on Nomadic Peoples, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Its primary concerns are the current circumstances of all nomadic peoples around the world and their prospects. Its readership includes all those interested in nomadic peoples, scholars, researchers, planners and project administrators.
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