Skvirskaja V. ‘Nenets Marriage’: the Political Economy of Desire and Matrimonial Emotions

Vera SKVIRSKAJA — PhD in Anthropology, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen (Denmark, Copenhagen)


 Download  |  Go to Issue #1. 2018


ABSTRACT. Based on ethnographic fieldwork on the northern Yamal Peninsula (2000– 2001), this paper discusses people’s experiences and expectations of married life and how these expectations are influenced by affective ties to a wide range of relations. Two types of marriage — arranged marriage and love marriages between Nenets women and Russian newcomers — are used to illustrate the ways in which marriage is not only about the sentiments of spouses, but often brings to the fore the political economy of desire and local reflections on the good society. The paper suggests that while Soviet ideology and post-Soviet neo-traditionalist discourses have endorsed particular emotional registers deemed appropriate for ‘traditional’ Nenets marriage, marriage with Russians often leads to a situation where love, attraction or the excitement of ‘alien romance’ (Tsing 1993) are not necessarily tied to a nuclear family ideal. It argues that while issues of mobility and spatial orientation (to tundra or settlement) in marriage strategies do not remain static over the course of one’s life, tundra marriage is commonly underwritten by subjectively understood chances of leading a good family life.


KEYWORDS: kinship obligations, relatedness, spatial orientation, gender, Yamal


УДК392.57(=511.2) = 111
DOI 10.31250/2618-8600-2018-1-175-184 



  • Anderson D. Identity and Ecology in Arctic Siberia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002, 272 p. (in English). 
  • Borneman J. Until Death Do Us Part: Marriage/Death in Anthropological Discourse. American Ethnologist, 1996, Vol. 23 (2), pp. 215–235. (in English). 
  • Carsten J. Cultures of Relatedness: New Approaches to the Study of Kinship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, 228 p. (in English). 
  • Jankowiak W. Introduction. Romantic Passion. A Universal Experience? New York: Colombia Univ. Press, 1995, pp. 1–20. (in English). 
  • Kharyuchi G. P. Traditsii i innovatsii v kulture nenetskogo etnosa [Traditions and innovations in the culture of the Nenets ethnos]. Tomsk: Tomsk State Univ. Publ., 2001, 228 p. (in Russ.). 
  • Lapidus G. W. Women in Soviet society: equality, development, and social change. Berkeley; Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1978, 381 p. (in English).
  • Lyarskaya Ye. [Women and the Tundra. A Gender Shift in the Yamal Peninsula?]. Antropologicheskij forum [Forum for Anthropology and Culture], 2010, no. 13 (Online), pp. 3–38. (in Russ.). 
  • Patico J. Kinship and Crisis: Embedded Economic Pressures and Gender Ideals in Postsocialist International Matchmaking. Slavic Review, 2010, Vol. 69, no. 1, pp. 16–40. (in English). 
  • Rethmann P. Skins of desire: poetry and identity in Koriak women’s gift exchange. American Ethnologist, 2000, vol. 27 (1), pp. 52–71. (in English). 
  • Rivkin-Fish M. Pronatalism, Gender Politics, and the Renewal of Family Support in Russia: Towards a Feminist Anthropology of ‘Maternity Capital’. Slavic Review, 2010, vol. 69 (3), pp. 701–724. (in English). 
  • Skvirskaja V. Expressions and Experiences of Personhood: Spatiality and Objects in the Nenets Tundra Home. Shamanism in Rainforest and Tundra: Personhood in the Shamanic Ecologies of Contemporary Amazonia and Siberia. Oxford; New York: Berghahn Book, 2012, pp. 146–161. (in English). 
  • Skvirskaja V. New Economic Forms and Subjectivity in Post-Socialist Russia: the Case of a Rural Periphery, Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region. Ph. D. Thesis. Cambridge, 2006, 174 p. (in English). 
  • Tsing A. L. In the Realm of the Diamond Queen. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1993, 368 p. (in English).