I just had an inspiring phone talk with PhD student Evelyn Landerer, who returned from a year of fieldwork in some of the Russian North’s remotest places, in the North of Irkutskaya Oblast and Krasnoyarski Krai. You need a month to even get there, if you get there, e.g. to the small village of Teteya half way between the big river systems of the Lena and the Yenisey.
Evelyn’s phD project at Cambridge is about people’s relations to the forest, their way of moving, and the fluidity of life, the environment and cosmology among her Taiga hunting colleagues. She has an amazing fieldwork picture gallery here, which you are welcome to look at. We hope to get her at some point for a talk or more in Finland, where she has lived before as an Arctic Studies programme student, and working on a Huskey farm.
Something we talked about relating to her field material is the possible connection between the fluidity of movement and of life among forest dwellers, and the fluidity of value-judgements among many. Has anybody hints and tips on anthropological writing about this?
In general, Tim Ingold’s recent books are relevant in this field, and one of his articles in 2008 (Bindings against boundaries, Environment and Planning A 2008, volume 40, pages 1796-1810), and Nuccio Mazzullo’s work (with Tim Ingold) on ‘Being Along’. Ingold argues that “To inhabit the open is to be immersed in  fluxes” (2008:179). But how prominent is there the idea that when your whole existence is a process, there is no clear distinction between good and bad any more? In other words, the hard snow on which you migrate with reindeer tonight is good because it lets you travel, and in a moment the same snow is a disaster as it is too hard for reindeer to access the pasture under it. This is ‘Being Alive’ and ‘Being Along’ quite fundamentally. I think the point here is the practice-embedded relativity of being, knowing, happening, occuring, evolving and events, which is probably universal. It just happens that we sitting in permanent houses and doing a lot of routine detached from a tundra environment perceive things as if they were constant although in principle they are processes (or fluxes) too.
Any ideas on this line of thinking are welcome!