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Reindeer Herders’ Culturescapes in the Koryak Autonomous Okrug

Reindeer Herders’ Culturescapes in the Koryak Autonomous Okrug

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05/12/2014

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ErichKasten,ed.(2002)PeopleandtheLand:PathwaystoRefrominPost-SovietSiberia.Berlin:DietrichReimer.Pp.63-80.
ReindeerHerders'Culturescapes
intheKoryakAutonomousOkrug
ALEXANDERD.KING
ChukchiareoneofafewethnicitieswhoarethebuttofjokesinRussia.IwastoldmanyChukchijokesinKamchatka,mostlybyChukchiandKoryaksthemselves.RarelywereKoryaksidentifiedinthesejokes,butIwastoldone'Koryakjoke'duringteawheremywifeandIweretheonlywhitespresent:AKoryakissittingoutinthetundraguardingtheherd.Hehearsavoicecalling,'People!People!'
[liudz].
HerunstowardthesoundoverthehillandseesaRussianmanatthebottominthesnow.TheRussiancallsout'People!People!Helpme!'TheKoryaksays,'Oh?Inthetundrawearepeople.ThereinTilichikiwearejustKoryaks'.
I
Everyonelaughed,andaKoryakwomansittingnexttomecommented,'Yes,inthetundrawearealwayspeople'.ThetundraisthelocusofnativecultureinKamchatka.EveryoneinKamchatkaregardlessofethniciryorlengthofresidenceagreesonthisvalue,buttheothermeaningsassociatedwithtundraspacesandnativepeoplesvaryfromthedifferingperspectivesofRussians,nativeelites,andnativenon-elites.InPalanaRussiansandevensomenativeelites(characterizedby
higher
educationandwhite-collaremployment,usuallyinalargertown)associatespacesinthetundrawith'wilderness'andopposethemto'civilization'.Thisnature-culturedivideallocatesKoryakstothewildsofthetundra,
which
isoutsidetheEuropeanunderstandingof'culture'and'civilization'.Incivi-lizedplaces,asthejokepointsout,theyarenotquite'people',butsomethingless,mere'Koryaks'.NativepeoplewhoparticipateinawayofHfeconnectedtothetundracanmakea'wilderness'versus'civilization'distinctionifledifthatdirectionbytheconversation.TheyarefamiliarwithEuropeanvalues,buttheydonotexpressthesevalueswhentalkingaboutthemselvesontheirownterms,'ontheirownturf'.Asonecaninferfromthejoke,nativepeopleunderstandthetundraastheir'own'spaceandopposethetundratothetownasa'Russian'or'other'space.Thislandscapeofselfandothercanbe
 
64
AlexanderD.King
usedtomarkboundariesordefinegroups;itreferencesdifferent,oftencontra-dictory,setsofvalues,differentculturalpatterns.BeforeIpresentthelocalsymbolsassociatedwiththelandscapeandthemostrelevantsocialrelations,aneticorientationforthereaderiswarranted.KamchatkaisapeninsulainthefarnortheasterncorneroftheRussianFedera-tion.ItseparatestheSeaofOkhotskfromtheBeringSeaandthePacificOcean.TheKoryakAutonomousOkrugisanadministrativeterritoryoccu-pyingthenortherntwo-thirdsofKamchatkaandsomeoftheadjoiningmainland.'TheokrugisborderedonthenorthbytheChukchiAutonomousOkrug,byMagadanProvince
to
thenorthwestandbyKamchatkaProvincetothesouth.Theindigenouspeopleofthisareaareenumeratedintoseveralculturalgroupsinthestandardanthropologicalworks:Itelmen,Koryak,Chukchi,andEven.SometimesKoryaksaredividedintoChauvchu(rein-deerherders)andNymylan(town-dwellinghunter-fishers),butthiseco-nomic(orpraxis)distinctioncanbeextendedtoalltheindigenousethnicgroupsinthearea."WhilepeopleinKamchatkasometimesdistinguishethnicgroupsfromoneanotherinthisway,theymostoftendistinguish
mestnye
(locals,natives)from
priezzbie
(incorners),especiallywhentheyarediscussingculturaldifferences(whetherpractices,beliefs,socialrelations,etc.).Thegroup
priezzhie
isnotmonolithic;
priezzbie
includeRussians,Ukrainians,Buriats,andothers,but
mestnye
pointedouttomethatthesedistinctionsmeantnothingwhendescribinghowtheseelitesrelatedtoandtalkedaboutnativepeople.Althoughmydiscussionherefocusesonreindeerherdersandtheirrela-tionstothelandscape,bothinWhiteimaginationandinnativepeople'sownterms,mygeneralizationscouldbeextendedtohunter-fisherpeople,aswell.ThispapercontraststwowaysofspeakingaboutthelandscapeandnativecultureintheKoryakAutonomousOkrug(KAO),whichIidentifyas'Euro-pean'andas'nativeKamchatkan'.Contrastingwaysofspeakingaboutthelandscapemarksomeoneasnative
(mestny,korermoi)
ornon-native
(priezzhz)
inKamchatka.Myterm,'culturescape'isanattempttoconnectculturetothelandscapeinawayevocativeofAppadurai's(1996)ideasofethnoscapes,neighborhoods,andlocality,whicharebestunderstoodasactivitiesorpro-cesses,notentities.Myusageof'culturescapes'isalsopartofanattempttoreturntoamoreold-fashionedanthropology,onethatvaluessuchinforma-tionastoponymyandnarrativesabouttreesandhills.AsBasso(1996,109
f£)
andDescola(1996)haveargued,thinkingofthelandscapeasexisting'out
ReindeerHerders'Culturescapes
65there'independentofhumansreflectsaEuropeanworldview.Thelandscapeisbestunderstoodassimultaneouslyabackgroundforaculturalworldviewandconstitutedbythatsameworldview(FeldandBasso1996,14
ff.).
ThisfollowsnativeKamchatkans'waysoftalkingaboutplace;itisaphysicallandscape,whichisenactedandexpressedintermsofsocialrelationsandactivities.Myusageoftheterm'culrurescape'isaninverseofAppadurai's
'erhnoscape'.
Insteadofade-territorializednetworkofpeople,identities,andideas,
1
emphasizetherootednessofdailylifeandpeople'sunderstandingsinaparticularplace.IdonotfindanalyticaldistinctionsbetweenspaceandplaceusefuLEpit-omizedbythinkerslikeHeidegger(1977)andLefebvre(1991),Westerndiscoursesaboutthelandscapeassumeanindependentlyexisting,'natural'topography(space),whichexistsoutthere,independentofhumanculture,independentofmeaning(place)(seeHeidegger1977).Appaduraiwritesoftheproductionoflocalityinasimilarstrain,asacolonizingenterprise,markingsomethingpreviouslyunmarkedormarkedbyothers(1996,183-4).IhavefoundthatKoryaksandothernativeKamchatkansdonotperceivespaceandinvestitwithculturalsignificance.Rather,thelandscapeispartandparcelofanopen-endedsymbolsystem;terrainandculturearenotseparateinprac-tice,andtheyshouldn'tbeseparatedinanalysis.Nativediscoursesaboutthelandscapeconstituteandcreatetheirlocalityasaterrainofsocialrelationsandactivities;relevantlandscapeisanenactedplace.Nativelandscapeispartofaninterconnectedsymbolsystemwhereplacesreferencepeopleandactions;deerimplyplaces;placesrequirerituals;ritualsoccurindifferentkindsofplaces,andsoon.Thislandscapeisnotbifurcatedintowildanddomesticated.Westerntaxonomiesclasspartsofthelandscapeas'wilderness',whichisopposedto'civilization'(Nash1982).Wildernessisnon-human,unmarked,raw;civilizationisfoundindomesticatedspaces,thosewhichhavebeenmarkedbyhumans.Wildspacesareprocessedandbuiltupintodomesticatedplaces.TheKamchatkanlandscapeprovidesdramaticandpowerfulimageryforbothnativeandnon-nativepeopleinthe
Koryak
AutonomousOkrugandacrossRussia.Locatedontheedge
of
theempire,KamchatkaisametaphorforedgeandwildernessthroughoutRussia.NeglectedbyRussiangovern-mentandcommercialinterestsinthelatenineteenthandearlytwentiethcenturies,
Petropavlovsk-Kamcharski
andsouthernKamchatkawerethenan
 
66
AlexanderD.
King
internationalcrossroadsintheNorthPacific:indigenouspeople,long-timeresidentRussians,Japanese,Americans,Koreans,Norwegians,andotherslivedandtradedwitheachotherforfurs,fish,meat,andmanufacturedgoods.KamchatkawasnotconsideredtoodistantfornationsalongthePacific;aNorwegian-AmericanfurtraderoperatingoutofSeattlemaderegularvisitsandmaintainedapermanentpostonKamchatka(Bergman1927).Japanesefishingbasesweredistributedupanddownthecoast,ca~~ingsalmonandcaviar.Americanwhalersandothertradersregularly
participaterl
inannualnativefairs,tradingtheirfamousWinchesters(andotherthings)forfurs,meat,andivory.
As
theSovietUniondrewanironcurtainaroundthebordersofitsempire,itclosedborderlandslikeKamchatkatoSovietcitizensaswell.AnuclearsubmarinebaseacrossAvachaBayfromPetropavlovsk-Kamchatskiwascertainlyagoodreasonforsecurityandsecrecy,butthemainreasonforKamchatka'sclosedstatuswastheneedforemptyspace.ThecentralpartofthepeninsulaisthetargetareafortestingSoviet(andnowRussian)missiles,whicharelaunchedfromasubmarinenearArchangelskortheBai-konourCosmodromeandtrackedbyseveralradarinstallationsincentralKamchatkaastheystriketheearth.Thus,fortheSovietgovernment,Kam-chatka'sperceivedemptiness,lackofpeople,wildernesswasitsgreatestassetduringthecold
war,"
As
istypicalacrossSiberia,theindigenouspopulationismostlyrural,whileimmigrantRussophonesdominatethemoreurbansettlementsofPalana,Ossora,andTilichiki/KorfWhatRussiansseeascivilization(Moscow,Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski),nativesseeasEuropeanspaces(cities,towns).RussiansinKamchatkaunderstandthispointofviewasonethatputsnativepeoplenotincivilizationbutinwilderness,andthismakesnativepeople'wild',whetherasnoblesavagesorjustasprimitives."KoryakandChukchireindeerherdersintheKoryakAutonomousOkrugtalkabouttheland-scapeasdifferentkindsofplaces.Naturallytheymakedistinctionsbetweendomesticandnot;theyhavesmallandlargeritualsmarkingplacesasdomestic.Theseplacesweren'tpreviouslyunmarked,however,butdifferent,associatedwithotherpersons(humanornon-human).Otherkindsofpersonsinhabitotherkindsofspaces-herddeer,bear,fish,andvariousspiritualpersonae.PartofbeingnativeinKamchatka(aselsewhereintheSovietUnion)iscomingfromavillagethatdoesn'texistanymore.Attheturnofthetwen-
ReindeerHerders'
Culiurescapes
67
tiethcentury,therewerehundredsofnativevillagesandreindeerherdingcampsspreadacrossKamchatka,eachwithinaone-ortwo-daywalkofanother.Sovietcollectivizationinthe
1930s
includedclosingmanysmallandremotevillagesandconsolidatingthepopulationinlargertownsinloca-tionsmoreadministrativelyconvenient(notnecessarilyoptimallocationsfortraditionalactivities)."ThistrendofclosingvillagesandconsolidatingpopulationscontinuedafterWorldWarIIupto1984,whenRekinikiwasclosed.ThisexperienceisbynomeanslimitedtonativeKamchatkans,orevennativeSiberians(cfRasputin1979).NativepeopleinKamchatkaaretiedintoglobalethnoscapes,mediascapes,technoscapes,andfinancescapes,whichprovideindigenousKamchatkanscomplexperspectivesonglobalcontinuitiesanddifferences.
Priezzbie
neigh-borhoodsaretiedintoothervirtualandlocalneighborhoodsconnectingMuscovites,Ukrainians,andothers.Indigenousethnoscapesalsoincludeacomplexterrainofheterogeneouspersons,includingdiasporiccommunitiesfromclosedvillages,foreignanthropologists,
priezzhie
superiors,spousesandfriends,sharnanictouristsandadventurers,andWesternbusinessmenlooking
to
extractnaturalresources,fromfishtoplatinum.Thenon-humanpersons,like
kalau)
(anthropophagousmonsters),reindeer,bear,andsacredrocksormountains,areequallyimportantinindigenousethnoscapes,butofteninvisiblefromRussianperspectives.KamchatkanmediascapesincludetheusualassortmentofinternationalvideoandaudiocassettesandbroadcastsonthenationalRussianTVnet-worksORTand(inmostvillages)NTY.Peopleareawareofworldtrends,includinggivingofferingstothefirebynativepeoplesinSouthAmericaandelsewhere,themedicinaluseofplantsandanimalparts(especiallybeargallbladder)invariouscultures,andtheincreasingimportanceofcomputerliteracyinordertosucceedinagloballabormarket.Culturalpracticesarecenteredintheeverydaylifeofpeopleinacommunity,andmyChukchifriendswereawarethatonecantalkaboutthesesimilaritiesanddifferencesanduselabelssuchas'Chukchi','Koryak',andeven'real
Chukchi"
with-outreifyingthesedistinctionsintoboundedgroupswhicharediscreteandautonomous.Peoplemoveabout,populationschange,'everyoneisallmixedup[ethnically]"Iwasoftentold,sometimesasanexplanationwhythereisnosuchgroupas'theKoryak'.

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