Keeping Arctic animals makes sense!

The Arctic Ark team has presented their work of the last four years in human-animal relations in the Arctic at the Finnish Academy’s final Arktiko Seminar. Studying people’s relations to their domestic pastoral animals in the Arctic using approaches from anthropology and genetics has resulted in some surprising results:

Our work with reindeer, horse and cattle herders in Lapland, Arkhangelsk region and Yakutia has shown that

  1. people in the Arctic have long relied and still rely on more animal diversity than reindeer and fish
  2. a very similar set of properties of their pastoral animals is valued by the herders across regions and also across species: the independence, the autonomy of the animals, and the very low level of human care that the animals need in comparison to other more southerly animals are particularly valued. This also comes with the plus that all these animals can wander off and search for their own food, grazing
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    ArcArk coordinators Juha Kantanen (genetics) and Florian Stammler together with Alexandra Grigorieva (Yurta Mira) in front of the ArcArk poster on the viability of horse-herding

    on sometimes very limited pasture resources. Imported breeds of pastoral animals, like Holstein cattle or Arabian horses would not be able to survive on such resources. And particularly, their would not be able to graze on pastures covered under snow. This is what Sakha horses can, which you do not need to feed at temperatures down to minus 60.

  3. that in different regions the same species of animals is used in a very diverse way, and this use is culturally determined. We find that the broader the use value of the animal is in the specific society, the more resilient the animal husbandry is to different socio-economic shocks on the human-animal livelihood. A good example for this is the horse: in Yakutia people value the horse as a source of meat, of transport, racing, prestige, milk, hair and spiritual connection to the land. This combination of broad use-application of the horse has led to a steady grow of horse numbers and steady demand for horse products on the market, making this an even economically viably livelihood. On the other hand, in Finland and in Mezen (Arkhangelsk), local horse breeds have lost their economic value almost entirely, since motorised transport replaced them in agriculture and forestry. In these cases, where people do not eat horse meat, the only use – value left for the horses is as a source for tourism and racing.

Continue reading

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Arctic Youth well-being project participating in circumpolar comparison

The team of the joint Finnish-Russian project studying well-being among youth in Arctic

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Ria Adams presenting her work within WOLLIE on opportunities and threats for young people’s well-being, on the example of the Pyhäjoki fieldwork

industrial cities (WOLLIE) was invited to participate in the circumpolar study on Arctic Youth and sustainable futures, headed Joan Nymard Larsen, and the Arctic Human Development Report and Arctic Social Indicators editors team. At a meeting in Stockholm in the beautiful building of Nordregio, we talked among 17 Arctic social scientists about the determinants for well-being among youth in the Arctic. Continue reading

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A new book about Yukaghir people

Our anthropological team would like to congratulate Dr Cecilia Odé on her new book Life with the Yukaghir: North-East Siberia’s oldest tundra people. The book was published this summer in the Netherlands. Cecilia wrote it as a diary about her linguistic fieldwork trips to the far Northeast of Siberia.  Continue reading

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Oktoberfest Munich – is it all about human-horse relations?

Why would we write about the Oktoberfest on this blog? It turns out that there is an aspect of it that is closely related to the interest in one of our current projects – Arctic Ark – where we are interested in the genetic diversity of agricultural animals and the ways in which people make use of specific animal breeds’ traits. It turns out that a lot in the Oktoberfest is about – human-horse relations, because it goes back to a horse-race on 17 October 1810, as our PhD student Markus Przybyl writes below.

But first some of the basics:

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Basic numbers on the Oktoberfest, from the Norwegian inflight magazine September

Here below is Markus’ report, sort of a historical ethnography, with some interesting links to Arctic and Sámi traditions. All opinions expressed below are his, and comments here are welcome! Continue reading

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extractivism conference, November 2018

Our colleagues from the peace studies institute in Tromso share the announcement to this conference, which sounds interesting. https://uit.no/tavla/artikkel/564387/resisting_extractivism_in_border_zones

 

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International conference on “Local horse breeding in Russia in the past, present and future”, June 22-24, 2018

It is worth travelling north in mid June to experience one of the wonders of the Arctic. It is polar day when the sun disappears only for a very short time under the horizon and the sunset is fading into a sunrise for hours during the night colouring the horizon in a million different shades of blue, red and yellow.

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Mezen mare with its foal in Lampozhnya, photo: Christian Vagt

I enthusiastically confirmed when I received an invitation to visit a conference on local horse breeds in Russia often threatened by extinction. Accompanied by my friend and photographer Christian Vagt I travelled the long road to the old Russian town of Mezen. Small workshop-like symposia in contrast to big international conferences allow for a more intense exchange of ideas. They enable to establish close contacts among colleagues that often grow into future collaborations or even friendship.

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The author speaking about human animal symbiotic adaptation in the Arctic, photo: Christian Vagt

This conference was organised by the leading specialist on the Mezen horse breed Irina Borisovna Yur’eva of the Arkhangelsk Scientific Institute of Agriculture of the Russian Academy of Sciences. One of the main impressions left by the event was that around the local horse breeds in Russia you also always meet a special breed of people – real enthusiasts who fight not only for their cause, but are also amazingly communicative and social.

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the conference organiser Irina Borisovna Yur’eva at the conference dinner, photo: Christian Vagt

People of different scientific institutions from Russia, Belorussia, Norway and Finland visited the conference in the regional centre – the town of Mezen – and on the second and third day of the conference travelled to the nearby village of Lampozhnya. Here, at one of the oldest settlements on the Mezen River they witnessed a two days horse tourism competition, where local people and guests compete with their own and their horses’ skills in riding and hiking.

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Participants of the competition with their Mezen horses, photo: Christian Vagt

I presented the results of the Anthropology Team of the Arctic Centre Rovaniemi as the comparative research on human-animal relations in the Arctic Ark project. We contrasted the sociocultural significance and vernacular breeding practices of three different horse breeds and the forms of adaptation of the human-animal relationship in a changing Arctic.

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Cultural program, photo: Christian Vagt

Colleagues coming mostly from agricultural sciences and biology were greatly interested in the insights in symbiotic adaptation of humans and horses and the idea of distance and independence as important for social relations in the North.

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Theory and practice hand in hand, photo: Christian Vagt

We could witness a heated discussion between two conceptual factions of colleagues – one promoting maximum contact with animals as the goal of horse breeding and the other claiming that you neither have to ride nor manage the horses’ behaviour with that much scrutiny in order to understand and build relations with the animal.

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The founder of the village Lampey brings the trophies, photo: Christian Vagt

Other, yet not much studied differences in human relations with horses involve gender aspects. We very well know the transition of horse breeding from am masculine domain in an agriculturalist context to the favourite hobby of girls in an urban setting. There seems to also be a distinction of between those riders and hobby breeders who favour mares and those that favour stallions.

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Q&A after the presentation, photo: Christian Vagt

Russia is divided into regions where horsemeat is the most important economic asset of horse breeding but also of high cultural value, and others, where it is considered almost a taboo or symbol of economic and cultural decline to breed horses for meat. I was surprised to learn that Russia is an importer of horsemeat from abroad and often meat of low quality is brought into the country. While in Norway or Finland horses are mostly held for the growing business of breeding sports horses, the local horse breeding in Russia shows the full range of the different uses of horses from their role as working horses in agriculture and pastoralism, in meat production, recreation and tourism as well as hippotherapy, to its use in cultural events and sports.

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River crossing to the village of Lampozhnya, photo: Christian Vagt

Some links to institutions, which took part in the conference (only in Russian):

The Arkhangelsk Scientific Research Institute of Agriculture of the Primorsky Branch of Federal State Budgetary Institution on Science (FSBIS) Federal Research Centre of Complex Study of the Arctic (FRCCSA) of the Russian Academy of Science (RAS) – the leading institution of research on the Mezen horse coordinated by Irina Borisovna Yur’eva.

The director Alexander Mikhailovich Zaicev and other staff of the Russian Scientific Research Institute of Horse Breeding which is the leading institution researching local horse breeds in Russia.

The Vavilov Institute of General Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Laboratory of Comparative Animal Genetics

The Russian State Agrarian University – Moscow Timiryazev Agricultural Academy

The Scientific-Art Museum of Horse Breeding in Moscow:

The Zoological Museum of Moscow University, head of research Natalia Spasskaya

Sever – the information resource of the Mezen region

Animal breeding and genetics group of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, head of research group Gunnar Klemetsdal

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The author with the heraldic animal of the town of Mezen, photo: Christian Vagt

 

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“Linnaeus in Sápmi: Generating Knowledge in Transit”

The Anthropology Research Team is very happy to welcome you all at the Arctic Centre for a joint presentation by Professor Elena Isayev and Professor Staffan Müller-Wille, both from the University of Exeter, UK, on the 28th of May at 14:00 in the Thule seminar room.

Look at or download a poster of the talk on the “lectures and events, Rovaniemi” page.

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Drawing by Linnaeus, illustrating various episodes from his journal. From the manuscript ‘Oeconomia Lapponica,’ Linnean Society of London, Library and Archives, Linnaean manuscript collection, Call no. GB-110/LM/LP/TRV/1/4/1. Accessable online at http://linnean-online.org/157546/

Elena Isayev is Professor of Ancient History and Place and Staffan Müller-Wille is Associate professor at the Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology.

In the summer of 1732, the Swedish botanist and physician Carl Linnaeus journeyed through the Northern provinces of the Swedish Kingdom, including parts of Sápmi, known to him (and most English speakers today) as Lapland. His travel journal is often cited as the earliest account of Lapland by a naturalist and ethnographer. We are in the planning stages for a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award application that uses the journal to create a platform for public debate about issues ranging from sustainability and wellbeing to indigeneity and sovereignty. Linnaeus’s travel diary allows to explore how knowledge was created “in transit”, that is, in encounters among people, like Linnaeus himself, who were multi-lingual and moved between cultures: guides and servants, settlers, priests, merchants, reindeer herders. In order to bring out this aspect, we plan to create a new online translation of the journal while re-enacting his journey. Discussing the translation at gatherings with local experts and audiences – a form of collective learning while the journey unfolds – will be our vehicle for exposing the meshwork of interactions through which the North and its supposed healthiness have been, and continue to be, constructed.

 

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