Global Stage of Local Stories: Siberian Landscapes, Samoyedic Indigenous Ethnogenesis, and the (Soviet) Anthropological Imagination
(KTH Royal Institute of Technology)
Paper short abstract:
This paper deals with the transnational history of Soviet concepts of indigenous ethnogenesis and its effect on the Cold War anthropology.
Paper long abstract:
This paper deals with a transnational moment in the study of Samoyedic ethnohistory (Nenets, Enets, Selkup and Nganasan). Based on indigenous narratives about ancient dwarfs living in Siberian subterranean landscapes (Nenets sikhirtia), Russian/Soviet ethnographers (Shternberg, Bogoras, Chernetsov, Prokofiev, Okladnikov, Rudenko and others) in collaboration with their American and European colleagues (Boas, Hrdlička and others) drew up a theoretical model of the origin and migrations of a Siberian indigenous people (Russ. etnogenez). They selected four places on the Siberian/Arctic map (Yamal, Sayan and Altai, Amur, Beringia) as the most important areas for making a unified model of indigenous history. In the academic texts this modeling was intertwined with the geographical and even geological determinism of indigenous histories that ironicaly did not contradict local narratives. This paper aims to show the history of the concept of a Siberian indigenous people's origin through a multisited and multiscaled intellectual history of anthropology. For this purpose, I shall focus on (1) the academic appropriation of vernacular concepts of indigeneity and indigenous origins, (2) a Marxist reframing of these concepts, and (3) the effect of early Soviet transnational academic collaborations on Cold War anthropology in the Soviet Union. The paper is based on archival documents from Russia and US, and interviews with senior Russian ethnographers.
Writing the history of anthropology in a global era [History of Anthropology Network]