Ecological and socioeconomic effects of sedentarization campaigns and growing state controls on pastoral practices are a prevalent topic of interest in the study of nomads. Research to date has focused on how processes of industrialization and urbanization bear on the productivity of pasturage and livestock; other constituents of pastoral livelihood, such as secondary animal products, remain less explored. In documenting the making of felt and milk products by Kazakh and Mongol practitioners in the Bortala Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, this paper explores the perpetuation of pastoral crafts amid household modernization and the building of market economy in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in western China. The tradition of domestic production of milk products continues despite increased state-control on pastoral ways of life. In contrast, felt-making is no longer essential to domestic subsistence but survives as a handicraft known to selected members of the community and a token of ethnic heritage. This study proposes that these traditional pastoral crafts should not be valued simply as records of the historic past. Instead, they provide essential knowledge for designing more sustainable measures in current state reforms.
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Vol. 37 • No. 3