This introductory chapter begins with a description of a small district called Ashinga, in Hentii Province along the Mongolian-Russian border, where the author conducted her PhD fieldwork between 1999 and 2000. It describes the area, its people, and how they go about their daily lives. The chapter then sets out the book's purpose, which is to address a set of seemingly paradoxical questions that emerged out of the author's placement in a family and extends to wider spheres of social life for the Buriad: How do people who traverse the border zone between two countries and have no private land or state of their own accumulate possessions and grow things? How can people who have lived under intense persecution during the socialist period, when most of their male relatives were either killed or taken away, harness such loss and absence to generate a proliferation of relations? Why is it that when these people display wealth in a stationary form, they destroy these exhibits through acts of arson that separate them from such accumulation? An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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