Reindeer herder without legs continues to migrate on the tundra.

Does every person who grew up in a curtain place have roots like a tree? Well, trees have roots, which go very deeply to the ground to get nutrition. A human being been has other roots which connect him or her with a curtain place or territory. People have different nature, but this affection to the place where a person grows up is like putting roots.

We all know how difficult and sometimes even painful it is to leave to another place after living there for a long time. It is like cutting roots, and it gives feeling of instability and vulnerability. When people start to move to a new place it is like putting new roots again, but these roots could be not so deep, like the main stem stayed in the place where a man was born.

Well, how does this work with nomads? They migrate all year round. It seems that they have roots on the whole territory of their migration or even on the whole tundra. Migrating from one place to another they still are connected to their roots of migration and they feel at home and protected there.

Prokopij Vylka from Priuralskaja tundra, Yamal, Western Siberia. Photo Roza Laptander.

Here is a picture of a Nenets man from the Yamal peninsula.  Prokopij Vylka (1967) is a handicapped person. He looks very much like the American actor Richard Gere.

This famous American actor Richard Gere has never met his Nenets look-alike. Photo

Unfortunately, he is not as lucky as his look-alike.  Once he lost his way in the winter tundra. His legs were frozen and in the Yamalo-Nenetskij regional hospital doctors amputated them till his knees. Prokopij returned to the tundra. He lives in a tent with his parents, wife and two sons. He feels himself more comfortable here than in a warm and comfortable apartment in a settlement, even as an invalid person.Here in the tundra he feels like even his homeland gives him the power to follow the normal rhythm of nomads in the tundra and to be strong in his mind.

Prokopij migrates on a reindeer sledge. He even helps to collect wood and water and he is making sledges by himself for other people. He cannot throw the lasso or catch reindeer anymore. His sons do this now. It is very seldom that handicapped people continue to migrate in the harsh arctic climate, although some Nenets continue to live this way at a very advanced age.

by Roza Laptander

Posted in Fieldwork, Indigenous Peoples, oral history, Russian North | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Wondering about landscape appreciation

Hi everyone, I am a first time blogger here. Am based in Cambridge, UK, and doing a PhD there at the moment. I have come back from fieldwork some 6months ago.

Before I went off to fieldwork in the northern Taiga of Siberia I made a little booklet with pictures of my home country to show around at my fieldsite. I had compiled – in my opinion – the most beautiful photographs of 10 years of hiking and skiing in the mountains together with pictures of medieval towns. This, I felt, summed up well the beauty of my home country, the Tyrol.

Fast forward to a camp in the forest:

Surprised noises from the first person to look at it summoned more people to crowd around the booklet. I took the oohs and aahs at first as a sign of appreciation, until I was told otherwise.

‘My, how hard it must be to live there.’

‘Just rocks everywhere, how do people manage there?’

And finally, ‘Now I see why you like to come here to the forest so much. I can understand you.’

I was more than surprised. All the landscapes, views and vistas that I treasured were a reason for people to pity me. The locals especially commented on a series of pictures, taken from a mountain top of a little over 3000m where I spent the night tied with a rope to the top in order to not accidentally fall off in my sleep and capture the sunrise. The whole of the Alpine range from Austria to France could be seen.

The only two things they could relate to as something nice in the booklet where pictures of the monument of a hunter in bronze and the flower pots lining all the windows of the houses.

This got me thinking about my first reactions to the landscape that the locals of my fieldsite lived in. I did not find it beautiful but rather worrisome to navigate in. It was not only flat, but seemed to me to consist of swamps only, different types, but nevertheless. The lack of clear views and vistas among the trees and bushes posed to me a tremendous challenge of not getting lost and the swamps one of not getting stuck. But the more I walked in it, the more I learned to appreciate it. Not the clear views seen from a stationary point but the myriads of ever-changing tiny vistas created by my movement through the forest made the charm and beauty of the place. Beauty through movement?

So maybe the locals’ reaction to the pictures of the rocky alps was not only based on their preferring forest to rocks as a place of living, but also on their type of landscape experience and appreciation. Especially the pictures taken from mountain tops (as opposed to those taken on the way up or down) offer a tremendous view of very large distances without having to change place or move about. For me this is one of the reasons I love going up mountains and then sit for hours on the top enjoying the view without moving. But it also constitutes a very static landscape view, to a large point independent of movement.

What are the locals’ opinion and experience of vistas and, what’s more, what kind of vistas? When walking long distances with them I observed how much they appreciated changing surroundings to keep them interested and vigil. They told me how a walk seemed shorter to them that way, how different types of forest offer different grounds to walk on and demand different ways of looking (looking through the trees, towards the top of trees, on the ground, expecting different animals, different signs, and different resources). All these mini-vistas could change within minutes and form a dynamic mosaique.

Except for a newly introduced type of landscape that offers long, far distance vistas that do not change for hours even when one is in movement: clear cut tracts made by oil-explorers. These tracts allow the locals to look far ahead, to see a far away point that they have to reach. A different landscape experience: valued by some because it enables more direct movement, devalued by some because walking on them is so disheartening with the vista never changing.

To my surprise, after I have finished the fieldwork, my landscape appreciation seems to have changed for good. Where I loved open places with a good view before, I feel more intimidated now and tend to look for a dense forest to find good shelter. Where before I enjoyed a large pine forest, I now feel bored after a while, because it is only a pine forest and not a patchwork of different types of forest and swamps that makes reaching a patch of pine forest all the more wonderful. When I look at my booklet now, I see the rocks and barren places before I see the vista. I notice now that I tend to photograph mountain tops without showing the valley or the mountain forest below, which comes from taking pictures when standing on a high mountain top where valleys cannot be seen.

I am curious about your experiences of and ideas about landscape appreciation when it comes to your fieldsite and home country.

Ewe Landerer

Posted in All, Fieldwork, Indigenous Peoples, Russian North, Theoretical Issues | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Languages, Minorities and Social Psychology

ORHELIA and anthropology research team member Roza Laptander shares the following from a conference she presented at:

The 13 International Conference on Language and Social Psychology (ICLASP), is an initiative of the International Association of Language and Social Psychology (IALSP), which was organized in conjunction with Mercator, European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning. The conference was last week in Leeuwarden, the capital city of the Friesland (the Netherlands).

Roza Laptander presenting in the Netherlands

On the Conference participants from different parts of the World discussed the present situation of minority languages. How to safe languages and how to make people to speak them again is an urgent question. There were different presentations about the Linguistic Landscape, Communication, Multilinguasm, Teaching Minority languages, Ethnic Minorities and Tourism.
Continue reading

Posted in All, Announcements, Indigenous Peoples, oral history | 1 Comment

Oral history – Mapping Endangered Oral Cultures Cambridge


Will he listen to the story of his grandfather Anniko Khorotetto when he grows up? Tambei Tundra, Yamal 2011

For those interested in oral history, heritage and archiving: Here are some impressions of the “Charting vanishing voices” workshop, held by the Cambridge World Oral Literature Project .  The workshop is on recent developments all over the world preserving oral cultural heritage. people from academic projects, practitioners, and data archiving specialists working with advanced multimedia technologies talked about archiving, questions of access for future generations, and recent research

I was there there from the ORHELIA project because I wanted to find out from professionals like google, UNESCO and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics about their technologies of data accessibility, archiving mapping. Continue reading

Posted in All, Announcements, Indigenous Peoples, oral history, Theoretical Issues | Tagged | 3 Comments

Workshops series on Identity, Politics and Place in relation to indigenous peoples in Leipzig.

Friday 22 June 2012 I participated to a workshop in Leipzig, at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, on the theme: “Identity, Politics, Place and Representation”.
The workshop had been preceded the day before (21.06.2012) by a public lecture given by Oren Yiftachel, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, with the title of – Urban Regimes and ‘Gray Spacing’: Between Privatizing Democracy and ‘Creeping Apartheid’.

Professor Oren Yiftachel during the public lecture.

An interesting lecture that touched upon “the impact of structural economic, identity and governance tensions on urban regimes. It draws attention to the pervasive emergence of ‘gray spaces'; that is, informal, temporary or illegal developments, transactions and populations. ‘Gray-spacing’ has become a central strategy to manage the unwanted/irremovable, putting in train a process of ‘creeping urban apartheid’” (Lecture abstract -2012, Yiftachel). This issues were analysed by referring to research findings related to various cities around Europe, Africa and Asia, and “with special focus on the ‘ethnocratic’ cities of Israel/Palestine”(Lecture abstract -2012, Yiftachel). Continue reading

Posted in All, Announcements, Indigenous Peoples, Sámi, Theoretical Issues | Tagged | 3 Comments

Determining the wellness of Arctic Communities

Colleague Stephanie Irbacher-Fox from Yellowknife, NWT, Canada, sent around this call for papers for an interesting conference. Basically all topics relating to the wellbeing and viability of livelihoods in the North are welcome. They also invite contributions from the non-Canadian North. If somebody has money to go there, I’m sure it would be a rewarding experience.

The Northern Governance and Economy Conference Steering Committee invites
proposals for papers at the conference taking place October 10-12 in
Yellowknife, NT, Canada. The main conference sponsor is the Social Sciences
and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Proposals are due June 30, 2012.

The purpose of this interdisciplinary conference is to bring together
academics, community and business decision makers, and community members to
share information and create networks to spark new and original thinking
about social determinants of economic wellness and prosperity in Canada¹s
Northwest Territories, informed by comparative experiences in the
circumpolar North and among Indigenous peoples in North America. Social
determinants are conditions determining the wellness of communities:
educational attainment, strength of culture, effective governance
institutions, good health. Social determinants, and the state of communities
with respect to social issues have a significant impact on the economy.

Papers are invited which address the following topics:

- Indigenous economies and economic paradigms;
– Social determinants of economic opportunity and development;
– Factors for/economic successes in Indigenous communities;
– Partnerships between Northern and/or Indigenous communities and business;
– Political institutions and economic wellness;
– Capacity building for economic success;
– Colonization impacts: challenges and solutions;
– Resource extraction impacts and Indigenous peoples;
– Resource governance and social, cultural and economic wellness;
-Environmental and economic sustainability;
– Land claims, self government, and economic development.

Applicants should send a biography and abstract for consideration no later than
June 30, 2012. Paper abstracts should be up to 250 words in length,
submitted in .doc or .docx format to the Steering Committee at Final versions of papers must be provided to panel
chairs by October 01, 2012.

For more information please go to:

Posted in All, Announcements, Extractive Industries, North American North

Arctic logistics

Even if logistic is not your thing, like in my case, you cannot avoid this challenge if you have to move in this northern area between Finland (Lapland) and Norway (Finnmark). After hours and hours of surfing in internet you come to one result – there is no public transport between Kirkenes and Finnish border and vice versa. In the winter time the Finnish post bus can bring you almost to the Norwegian border – Näätämö. Be prepared that it will take ages, because the bus makes a stop every kilometre. The driver opens the window and from few meters distance makes a master shot with the post into the hole of the post box. You may be the only passenger in the bus and you have ideal conditions to use the bus as an anthropological tool (for example, for the cross border research).
The bus from Inari (Finland) can bring you to the last point on the Finnish site, Näätämö. There is a border supermarket established for the Norwegian customers (good opportunity for the research on ‘border as resource’ issue, see also Stammler-Gossmann, Anna. 2012. ‘Winter-tyres-for-a-flower-bed’: Shuttle trade on the Finnish-Russian border. Chapter: Finnish-Russian border In: Bruns, B. and J. Miggelbrink (Eds.). Subverting Borders.Doing Research on Smuggling and Small-Scale Trade. Wiesbaden: VS VerlagfürSozialwissenschaften, pp. 225 – 247).

In the winter time the post bus brought me to this place almost at midnight. In May-June the bus from Inari arrives after 7pm. Unfortunately, the ‘K-market’ is closed at this time and the place is empty. However, there are still 55 km between Näätämö and Kirkenes.

My fieldwork is over and I am leaving Norway, but how to go back to Finland? No car and limited budget? There are the same 55 km until the Norwegian-Finnish border and no public transport for this distance. Informal arrangement is the keyword for the Arctic logistic and seems to be that it works…

Anna Stammler-Gossmann

Posted in All, Fennoscandia, Fieldwork