Accepted Paper:

Reading Wolves  


Alexander Oehler (University of Northern British Columbia)

Paper short abstract:

This paper uses ethnographic and ethnohistorical data on human-wolf relations among Soiots of the Eastern Saian Mountains in southern Siberia to examine how wolf behavior leads to human perceptions and practices, while displaying how humans and wolves attempt to predict each others movements.

Paper long abstract:

This paper works with ethnographic and ethnohistorical data on human-wolf interactions among Soiots of the Eastern Saian Mountains in southern Siberia. It attempts to answer Lescureux's call to examine more closely how wolf behavior is affected by human practices, and "how the behavior of this predator exerts an effect on human perceptions and practices [...] during a history common to both species" (2006:466). With an overview of some of the ways in which human perceptions of wolves may have fluctuated in the Eastern Saian Mountains over the past 200 years, the focus lies on how contemporary wolf packs and human households learn from each other by reading each others movements within a shared landscape. The differing ways in which acquired knowledge of the other is transmitted to members of each community are examined. In the case of humans, the paper explores how wolf behavior is explained in religious and secular terms today. While working from an anthropological perspective, the paper incorporates observations of wolves by ethologists, arguing that an 'anthropology beyond the human' has much to gain from interdisciplinary sharing that will deepen our understanding of hybrid communities.

Keywords: Soiots, human-wolf relations, hybrid communities, mutual anticipation, social learning, southern Siberia

Panel P23
Collaboration and partnership in human-animal communities: reconsidering ways of learning and communication