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Accepted Paper:

Ecological and political claims when talking about "wild" animals: Vepsian case study  
Laura Siragusa (University of Oulu)

Paper short abstract:

This paper problematizes verbal art in respect to human-animal relations among Veps. It presents a difference in ways of speaking about “wild” animals depending on their location. Their return to inhabited villages is perceived as the direct result of political and economic power relations.

Paper long abstract:

This paper problematizes verbal art with regard to human-animal relations. Stemming from my work with Veps, a Finno-Ugric minority in north-western Russia, I show that there is a difference in Vepsian ways of speaking when discussing the presence of "wild" animals in their habitual habitat (i.e., forest and swamps), or their return to and presence in inhabited settlements.

The Vepsian categories of "wild" and "tame" are often blurred and closely connected to the territory the animals inhabit, rather than a long-standing relation of domestication with humans. In general, "wild" animals are those which live in the forest, swamps, meadows, and not in the villages. Veps tend to speak carefully about them, often by using taboos and paraphrases, especially when going to the forest to hunt, fish, and gather berries/mushrooms. The forest is the territory ruled by the master of the forest, a spiritual being in which villagers believe, with whom Veps negotiate the success of their activities and safe relations with the animals.

Instead, the presence of the government in the villages is felt stronger and when the "wild" animals return to the inhabited settlements, Veps talk about them differently, often acquiring a political tone in their speech. The "wild" animals become part of an accusation towards the political powers for a lack of investment in rural areas and a change in the local ecology.

Panel P057
The return of the wild: fears, hopes, strategies. Ethnographic encounters in wildlife management in Europe
  Session 1