Istomin K. V. “Only Cowards Get Lost”: Fear, Anxiety and Spatial Orientation among Komi and Nenets Reindeer Herders
Kirill V. ISTOMIN — Candidate of Historical Sciences, Institute of Language, Literature and History, Komi Science Center, Ural Division of the Russian Academy of Science (Russia, Syktyvkar)
ABSTRACT. Komi and Nenets reindeer herders stress the role of bravery and courage in successful orientation in Tundra. The ethnographic data collected by the author in Bolshezemelskaya Tundra (North-Eastern Europe) and Taz Tundra (Western Siberia) confirms that this stress on courage is indeed justified. The herders’ reliance on mental maps rather than visual clues during travel creates certain ambiguity, when a herder cannot be sure if he is travelling in the right direction up until he/she arrives to a certain “known place”. The resulting emotions of anxiety and even fear can compromise the ability of the herder to find his/her way in Tundra in several ways: It can force the herder to change his direction of travel, which is the shortest way to get lost. It can lead the herder to miss or misjudge the landmarks. It can decrease his ability to return to his course after being lost. It seems like the emotions of anxiety and fear
can be one of the reasons young reindeer herders switch to GPS navigation. These emotions can also explain certain gender stereotypes.
KEYWORDS: navigation, way finding, nomadism, reindeer herding, emotions, Komi, Nenets
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