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Accepted Paper:

Extinction, development, and envelopment in the Sámi yoik  
Stephane Aubinet

Paper short abstract:

This paper addresses how the Sámi people use a chanting technique called ‘yoik’ to engage with extinction and death. Particular attention is given to the way yoik melodies are created, remembered, and forgotten, drawing ‘developing’ or ‘enveloping’ gestures that open or close horizons

Paper long abstract:

This paper addresses a variety of ways in which the Sámi people use a chanting technique called ‘yoik’ to engage with extinction and death. A yoik consists of a short melody, with or without lyrics, designed to evoke a person, an animal species, or a place. A yoik vocalisation typically presents a gradual rise of intensity, captured by the metaphor of a horizon progressively approached by the yoiker and revealing a novel field of perception. ‘Absence’ must here be understood not as an absolute property of things, but in relation to specific practices that afford their bringing to presence. I propose to present observations gathered during my doctoral work on the yoik with an emphasis on this limit between absence and presence, in particular by exploring the issue of memories and death. Humans are said to remain alive so long as their yoiks are still chanted. The dead thus retain a mode of presence sustained by the activity of the living, who are responsible for their memory. Some extinct animal species may also retain a form of presence in chants. Individual melodies are eventually forgotten as generations come to pass. In some cases, these may be retrieved and opened up again, for example thanks to recordings stored in archives. A particular pattern of breath is then restored to vitality, sketching a horizon of its own and recalling a Leibnizian understanding of birth and death respectively in terms of ‘development’ and ‘envelopment’.

Panel Exti02a
For an anthropology of the limit I
  Session 1 Wednesday 31 March, 2021, -