Accepted Paper:

Shamanic and mining practices of dealing with the world(s) of spirits: a South Siberian case  

Author:

Dmitri Funk (Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology RAS)

Paper short abstract:

The study reveals main differences and similarities in dealing with the world(s) of spirits in shamanic cosmologies and by mining companies, and shows how different cultural interpretations are used, forgotten, or invented, and how they interact under apparently unequal social conditions.

Paper long abstract:

Spiritual/shamanic worlds as perceived by the Turkic-speaking groups in South Siberia consist of up to five worlds with not very detailed picture of only one of those worlds, of the lower one. In ritual texts and people's explanations this world is shown as the land of the deceased, even though there are known "practices" of entering the underworld / a mountain world by a leaving person who, eventually, brings something valuable underneath. This "gift" is not of a big value, because his or her contemporaries are normally dead by the time he/she returns to the middle world. One of the shaman's tasks was a search for a lost person in a hope to regulate a temporarily broken social order.

Mining practices in the soviet and postsoviet times show different approaches to subsurface treasures. Official ideology and superstitions of mineworkers, among whom often were representatives of the local indigenous groups as well, varied significantly.

The pressure of mining industries that changed practically all social, cultural and ecological landscapes of indigenous societies brought about a shamanic revival as the last way to resist it.

The study reveals main differences and similarities in dealing with the world(s) of spirits in shamanic cosmologies and by mining companies, and shows how different cultural interpretations are used, forgotten, or invented in order to either defend the ancestral land, or get at least small benefits from losing it, or get super profit, and how these strategies interact under apparently unequal social conditions of the main stakeholders.

Panel P050
Engaging with treasures of the subsurface between extractivism and spiritualism