Arctic Domus team members to present papers at EASA conference
Arctic Domus team members will be presenting the following research papers at the European Association of Social Anthropologists conference at University of Milano-Bicocca, July 20-23 2016:
Paper Title: Ecological and political claims when talking about "wild" animals: Vepsian case study
Short Abstract: This paper problematizes verbal art in respect to human-animal relations among Veps. It presents a difference in ways of speaking about “wild” animals depending on their location. Their return to inhabited villages is perceived as the direct result of political and economic power relations.
Long Abstract: This paper problematizes verbal art with regard to human-animal relations. Stemming from my work with Veps, a Finno-Ugric minority in north-western Russia, I show that there is a difference in Vepsian ways of speaking when discussing the presence of "wild" animals in their habitual habitat (i.e., forest and swamps), or their return to and presence in inhabited settlements.
The Vepsian categories of "wild" and "tame" are often blurred and closely connected to the territory the animals inhabit, rather than a long-standing relation of domestication with humans. In general, "wild" animals are those which live in the forest, swamps, meadows, and not in the villages. Veps tend to speak carefully about them, often by using taboos and paraphrases, especially when going to the forest to hunt, fish, and gather berries/mushrooms. The forest is the territory ruled by the master of the forest, a spiritual being in which villagers believe, with whom Veps negotiate the success of their activities and safe relations with the animals.
Instead, the presence of the government in the villages is felt stronger and when the "wild" animals return to the inhabited settlements, Veps talk about them differently, often acquiring a political tone in their speech. The "wild" animals become part of an accusation towards the political powers for a lack of investment in rural areas and a change in the local ecology.
Panel: Anthropological traps
Paper Title: Making a home, trapping anthropology: Mackenzie Valley Dene sensibilities about trapping and challenging anthropological assumptions
Author: Robert Wishart (University of Aberdeen)
Short Abstract: Gwich'in sensibilities about trapping emphasise knowledge, respect and creating homes for themselves as well as animals. These sensibilities directly challenge anthropological theories which emphasise alienation and disenchantment so as fulfil prophecies of conjectural history.
Long Abstract: The Dene of the Mackenzie Valley, NWT, Canada have consistently positioned trapping as a valuable exercise despite fluctuations in the price of furs. In this paper I will contrast two visions of trapping. Materialist anthropological theories applied to the trapping economies of boreal forest First Nations created an image of trapping as an activity that necessarily leads to alienation and disenchantment because the furs were being produced for trade in the world economy; with some arguing that the result is nothing short of debt peonage and slavery for a once independent people. From what I have been taught in the field and from the observations and theorising of anthropologists not so concerned with conjectural histories, trapping seems far away from an alienating practice. Trappers will talk about how trapping requires knowing the land and relating to the animals in respectful ways; that a good trapper knows where animals are, can read the tracks and trails, but also knows how to invite them into their sets. For the trappers I worked with, creating the correct architecture for animal 'homes' is key to luring animals into giving themselves to the trap. Anticipation of whether this was done correctly and if an animal has accepted the invitation to enter, is also a part of this dynamic understanding of trapping that aligns with the value placed on the activity rather than on the product.
Convenors: Sara Asu Schroer (University of Aberdeen), Ursula Muenster (Ludwig Maximilians University Munich and University and Rachel Carson Center)
Discussant: Heather Paxson
Short Abstract: In this panel we invite participants to engage with the question of how humans' sense of health and wellbeing is often intimately connected to and dependent on the manifold ways through which human and nonhuman ways of life are entangled and emplaced within wider ecological relationships.
Long Abstract: We invite participants to engage with the question of how humans' sense of health and wellbeing is often intimately connected to and dependent on the manifold ways through which human and nonhuman ways of life are entangled and emplaced within wider ecological relationships. We are particularly interested in contributions based on in-depth ethnographic materials, helping explore the theoretical and ethical dimensions of what it means to people to 'live well' with other living beings. How might this notion allow to conceptualise health and wellbeing as being constituted through and dependent on the active participation of human and nonhuman living beings in shared social worlds? We especially invite papers to explore the connections between health, wellbeing and 'work' or 'labour'. How might a less human-centric and more open understanding of these terms contribute to a better understanding of the active and constitutive role of other living beings, whose often hidden and invisible 'work' is crucial for the creation of human health and wellbeing? How are other living beings such as animals, plants, fungi and microbes involved in creating and maintaining human health and sense of wellbeing? In times of climate change, severe ecological crisis and species extinction, an anthropological understanding of these questions seems all the more relevant. This panel is an initiative of the newly founded EASA network 'Humans and Other Living Beings' and will be accompanied by an inaugural network meeting to which all are welcome.
Paper: Negotiating care-full relationships: care as trans-species work in falconry and domestic breeding of raptors
Author: Sara Asu Schroer (University of Aberdeen)
Short Abstract: The paper seeks to bring into focus how caring can be understood as a relational achievement of both humans and other living beings based on processes of negotiation.
Long Abstract: In this paper I will consider the notion of 'care' and 'wellbeing' for an anthropology that seeks to move our analysis beyond the human to include other living beings as active participants in shared worlds. The paper seeks to bring into focus how caring can be understood as a relational achievement of both humans and other living beings based on processes of negotiation. I will explore this negotiation of care-fullness in relation to ethnographic fieldwork material on falconry and the domestic breeding of birds of prey, particularly the relationship between breeders and so called imprinted birds of prey used in artificial insemination. The paper will explore care in terms of 'trans-species' work, emphasising the bodily and intimate involvement necessary to keep up relationships over time, that maintain wellbeing and health both of birds and humans involved. Caring in the domestic breeding complex is a practice that involves negotiation of power relationships beyond ideas of purely human dominance and mastery and invites to open up ideas of ethical conduct to encompass the active participation of other-than-human living beings.
Paper: "Treating others good": well-being of land and animals in northern Canada
Short Abstract: Well being for the Gwich'in of northern Canada is encapsulated in a local sensibility of treating people and all other things 'good.' We explore this overarching philosophy by focusing on the way people work with dogs and how they position this work as part of a larger effort to maintain a healthy world.
Long Abstract: Gwich'in, Dene people in subarctic Canada have often emphasised the notion of 'treating others good'. This not only comprises fellow humans, but other persons including animals, the land (including rivers and lakes), other beings and materials. Focusing on the relations between Gwich'in, dogs and the land, we tease out what such treatment of others entails as well as elaborate on the local sensibility of 'good' treatment. We commence with an account of Gwich'in and working dogs and situate this in a broader discussion on well-being, the land, resource extraction initiatives, and apocalyptic prophecies. Gwich'in recount caring for their dogs through feeding, respectful communication, and shared activities in order to craft 'good dogs': dogs that work together and with people. Mistreatment can lead to uncooperative dogs or, crucially, to misfortune or bad health for humans. The treatment and well-being of dogs is similar to that of other animals as well as the land but a key difference lies in the practices or recognisable domestication: feeding, breeding, housing, etc. The feeding of the dogs, like that of humans, depends on healthy land, rivers and skies because fish, caribou, birds and other animals are situated as being part of a 'good' diet. The well-being of the dogs and people is thus immediately connected with the well-being of the land. In this sense, Gwich'in have become particularly concerned with resource extraction initiatives in the upper Peel River as it undermines the notion of 'treating good' and gwiinzii kwundei (good life/well-being).
Paper: Order out of chaos: political history and anthropological theory of Sergei M. Shirokogoroff (1920-1930s)
Author: Dmitry Arzyutov (University of Aberdeen)
Short Abstract: This paper focuses on the political history of the Russian and Chinese anthropologist Sergei Shirokogoroff (1887-1939) and shows how his anti-Soviet political activity in Vladivostok and Beijing and the development of his theories of ethnos and ‘psychomental complex’ were closely intertwined.
Long Abstract: This paper focuses on the political history of the Russian and Chinese anthropologist Sergei M. Shirokogoroff (1887-1939). Relying on correspondence, newspapers, and political pamphlets published in the Russian Far East and China, the author argues that Shirokogoroff's concept of ethnos was closely interlinked with his political activity - non-socialistic movement (R. nesosy) in Vladivostok and Anti-communist Committee in Beijing. A comparative study of his political writings and personal letters from different archives in the UK, the USA, Russia, and other countries opens up the internal life history of his political views and ethnos and 'psychomental complex' theories. In his letters to the Russian ethnographer Shternberg and the Polish linguist Kotwicz he compared his 'participant observation' in Civil War provisional governments in Vladivostok and his work with people from the different corners of the world in China to his learning from Tungus shamans in Zabaikal'e and even his own shaman experience. Simultaneously he taught some ethnographic courses at Far East University in Vladivostok, which according to his notes were the foundation of his book "Etnos" (1923). These political documents and his teaching experience help us to clarify the relations between his pro-monarchist and strongly anti-Soviet ideas and the theories of ethnos and 'psychomental complex', which he developed during his life.
Paper Title: Assessment of the sustainability of endangered nomadic and semi-nomadic reindeer herders’ communities in Eastern Siberia
Short Abstract: At least 3 kinds of traditional reindeer husbandry in Siberia should be included in the ICH UNESCO list. A methodology of contextualization has been used to evaluate the sustainability of 5 endangered herders’ communities. ICH protection mechanism may contribute to the development of reindeer husbandry in the cultural and political contexts.
Long Abstract: At least 3 kinds of traditional reindeer husbandry in Siberia should be included in the Intangible cultural heritage (ICH) UNESCO list: the Nenets in Yamal tundra, the Chukchies in Central Chukotka area and the Tungus in Eastern Siberian taiga. Only the first one is actually sustainable, while the others should be considered as endangered, especially taiga reindeer husbandry. Its formerly continuous area has fallen into separate loci and the number of reindeer stock has decreased dramatically. While this has been viewed as a crisis, this paper discusses how reindeer herders are adjusting their traditional herding strategies to modern conditions. A methodology of contextualization is used to evaluate the sustainability of 5 endangered reindeer herders’ communities living in different regions of Eastern Siberia. Changes in Siberian reindeer herding are analyzed according to three main types of contexts differing as to the period of their formation: a) traditional contexts that pre-existed the Soviet system, b) contexts formed in the Soviet time; and c) contexts created by post-Soviet reforms. In addition, the mathematical simulation is used to better understand the climate impact on reindeer livestock trends in different areas. Under modern conditions reindeer stock reduction is important in the economic context, but the role of traditional reindeer husbandry in the cultural and political contexts is increasing. The use of ICH protection mechanism may contribute to the development of traditional reindeer husbandry in the cultural and political contexts and make herders’ communities more sustainable.