Successful doctoral Dissertation Defense: When we got reindeer, we moved to live to the tundra – The spoken and Silenced History of the Yamal Nenets

Roza Laptander’s public dissertation defense took place online on the 29th of  April 2020 at 10 a.m. Finnish time.

“In Christianity, at the beginning was the word – in Nenets, at the beginning was silence” (Andrey Golovnev during Roza’s defense).

How beautifully put by Andrey Golovnev! The director of the Kunstkamera acted as opponent in this first ever western PhD defense by a Nenets scholar. We are proud that our team and the University of Lapland were the host of this long and successful dissertation process. Roza delivered an excellent speech, and the discussion with the opponent was on highest scholarly expert level about the meaning of silence in Nenets cultures and beyond. In his questions Golovnev went into great detail, using his own decades-long expertise in Nenets scholarship.

For example, he explored with Roza how we can interpret the fact that Nenets epic songs such as Yarabtsy” or Sydbabtsy” can start with silence instead of speech. So, as Golovnev masterfully put it: “in christianity, at the beginning was the word – in Nenets, at the beginning was silence”.

Continue reading “Successful doctoral Dissertation Defense: When we got reindeer, we moved to live to the tundra – The spoken and Silenced History of the Yamal Nenets”

Fieldwork story Stammler 2: Yamal, hunting for petrol and a wild reindeer

A story about my failed attempt of shooting a wild reindeer, and of a successful hunt for petrol

Khorot-Kolja_closeup
Yarkolana (Nikolay) Khorotetto, spring 2001

This story is dedicated to my friend Yarkolana (Nikolay) Khorotetto, who was tragically found dead (link in Russian) in the tundra, probably killed just after my birthday in 2019. This story takes us 20 years back, to my journey in spring 2001 with young Yarkolana and Dennis to Ostrov Belyi, White Island in the Arctic Ocean. We were all unexperienced and adventurous, did not know how to honour the spirits on Yamal KheKhe, the most sacred site in the entire region. Almost we were punished for this, but only almost. It’s a story of a steep learning curve, of immediate Soviet heritage, and of the hunger for intellectual food in the tundra.

Flo_Denis_OBelyi_inside0105
Dennis and Florian in a hunter’s container on white Island on the southern shore
Yap-Stepan bookOB
It turned out we were not the only ones in the abandoned village. For Stepan Yaptik the library was a top destination too: the books that we took along travelled later throughout the different camps of the tundra

 

 

 

Fieldwork story Stammler 1: Yamal, participation over observation is a health risk


participation over observation is a health risk

This was my first cold night ever in a chum in the Yamal tundra. It’s a story of ‘lesson learned’ early on in my fieldwork practice, that you need not only to be keen to participate in people’s life, but also be a good observer for the details. The price I had to pay for this in the end was a fever:(

Here are some photos from that day

after a sleepless night, with high temperature, I still couldn’t hold back and had to participate in the slaughter
He was the guy with whom I swapped the sleeping bag for a yagushka at night. In the rain he was wearing a parka made of Darnit, the material which you use for road construction between the pebbles and the sand.

 

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is portsy_yakha_iri_boat.jpg
From the trading post Portsy Yakha to the camp site we needed to cross the river
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 0024-1.jpg
after a sleepless night, with high temperature, I still couldn’t hold back and had to participate in the slaughter
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 0016.jpg
He was the guy with whom I swapped the sleeping bag for a yagushka at night. In the rain he was wearing a parka made of Darnit, the material which you use for road construction between the pebbles and the sand.

 

 

“CCC” – corona, climate change and conspiracy in the Yamal tundra

I have been doing fieldwork with Yamal Nenets reindeer herders for more than 20 years now, and have noticed this year a change in their perception of the changes happening around them, maybe partially reinforced by corona virus.

Be it industrial expansion, the icing-over of pastures, outbreaks of diseases, methane holes in the tundra, the change of a political regime or other disasters – they have always given me the impression of incredible self-confidence that whatever comes, these tough enthusiastic nomadic reindeer herders will manage to face the challenge and continue their life. Continue reading ““CCC” – corona, climate change and conspiracy in the Yamal tundra”