Golovnev A. V. Arctic Nomads: the Art of Movement

Andrei V. GOLOVNEV — Member of the RAS, Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia, Saint Petersburg) 

E-mail: Andrei_golovnev@bk.ru


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ABSTRACT. Nomadism is not a thing of the past, it is a living culture with its own present and future, which does not seem to die out but rather transforms its appearance. For this reason one should study it not as a fading tradition but as a school of mobility teaching us how to move and how to adapt. Such a study would previously be difficult not only because nomadism was associated with barbarity, but also due to the lack of means for its documentation. The visual and virtual revolution brought along new instruments of data recording and analysis. The author’s method of anthropology or ethnography of movement, named TMA (tracking– mapping–acting), suggests the documentation of motion by means of cartography and GPS-monitoring combined with visual tracking. Our research on Arctic nomadism is based on the studies of Chukchi, Nenets and Izhma Komi nomadic traditions as represented in the regions of Chukotka, Yamal and the Kola Peninsula, where fieldwork was carried out in 2013–2018. 

The three Eurasian Arctic areas appear to have equal reindeer herding potentials, as the populations of reindeers in Chukotka, Yamal and Fennoscandia (which includes Scandinavian and Kola tundras) hover around half a million heads. The mobility patterns of the three nomadic communities vary against the landscape, the proximity to seashores, mountains and forests, as well as to sedentary groups, administrative centers and industrial facilities. Of the three reindeer herding nomadic traditions under discussion the Yamal (Nenets) one appears to be the most stable, since it retains the algorithms of joint movement of people and animals, rhythmical functioning of the “transformer”, implementation of the principle of technical animation, etc. The Chukotka case represents a matrix of three-level mobility (pedestrian, reindeer and motor/ air “trajectories”) which comes with a number of critical situations and risks. As for the Kola pattern with its transportation and technological “blend” and the substitution of traditional reindeer breeding by the industrial production of reindeer meat, it seems to be not as much a form of nomadism as a mechanism (for watching, rounding up and butchering animals). The art of movement performed by the Arctic nomads consists in the diversity of the dynamic transformability of roaming and camping, going and staying, shepherds and herds (in Yamal), as well as in the three-level mobility matrix in the setting of constant risk (in Chukotka) and the management of reindeer production by the means of post-nomadic technologies(in Kola tundra). 

KEWORDS: anthropology of movement, nomadism, reindeer herding, Arctic, Nenets, Chukchi, Sami, Izhma Komi

УДК 397(=1.17-81) 

DOI 10.31250/2618-8600-2018-2-6-45 



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