Department of Social Anthropology

Dr Mette High


Dr Mette High

Phone: (01334 46) 1961

Office: Room 58, United College

Availability: Tuesday 1.00 - 2.00pm (weeks 2 & 3) Thursday 1.00 - 2.00pm (weeks 2 & 3)


Mongolia, USA, extractive industries, economic transformations, wealth and value, Buddhism and cosmology.


Mette High has carried out ethnographic research in Mongolia since 2001. During work for the International Labour Organisation in the country she became involved in multilateral initiatives towards improving the health and welfare of child labourers in illegal coal mines. She later began her doctoral research on the current Mongolian gold rush and received her PhD in social anthropology from University of Cambridge in 2008.

See also the PURE research profile.

Selected publications


2017. Fear and Fortune: Spirit worlds and emerging economies in the Mongolian gold rush. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

2010. Ayoltai Hishig (Dangerous Fortunes: An Anthropological Study of the Mongolian Informal Gold Mining Economy). Preface by Prof. Sendenzhavyn Dulam and Foreword by Prof. Caroline Humphrey, transl. by Bum-Ochir Dulam. Admon Press: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

2016. A Question of Ethics: The Creative Orthodoxy of Buddhist Monks in the Mongolian Gold Rush. Ethnos

2013. Cosmologies of Freedom and Buddhist Self-Transformation in the Mongolian Gold Rush. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 19(4): 753-770.
2013. Polluted Money, Polluted Wealth: Emerging Regimes of Value in the Mongolian Gold Mines. American Ethnologist 40(4): 676-688.
with J. Schlesinger. 2010. "Rulers and Rascals: The Politics of Gold in Mongolian Qing History". Central Asian Survey 29(3): 289-304.
2008. Wealth and Envy in the Mongolian Gold Mines. Cambridge Anthropology 27(3) pp.1-19.
Book chapters:

2013. Believing in Spirits, Doubting the Cosmos: Religious Reflexivity in the Mongolian Gold Mines. In Ethnographies of Doubt: Faith and Uncertainty in Contemporary Societies. Pelkmans, M. (ed.). Pp. 59-84.

2012. The Cultural Logics of Illegality: Living Outside the Law in the Mongolian Gold Mines. In Change in Democratic Mongolia: Social Relations, Health, Mobile Pastoralism and Mining. Dierkes, J. (ed.). Pp. 249-270.

Research interests

Her research focuses on economic transformations and moral sensibilities in extractive industries. Funded by a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship, her research has centred on Mongolia - a region where mining has historically been seen to violate fundamental taboos against digging into the land. In recent years, rising gold prices and postsocialist policy changes regarding land use have encouraged growth in Mongolia's booming mining sector and two-thirds of the country is now said to be licensed for mining purposes. Based on fieldwork in mining camps and surrounding areas, her primary theoretical interest is in the significance of economic transformations for new forms of sociality and moral being.
In September 2013, she was awarded a 3 year Early Career Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust to begin a new research project entitled 'Fracking Dreams:  Corporate morality and environmental politics in a new 'energy economy' in the United States'.

Research students

Astrid Stampe Lovelady

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