"Is it still the same nature you used to know?" Local knowledge and environmental change in Sakha Republic (Yakutia)
(University of Turin)
Paper short abstract:
My paper aims to investigate issues such as the production of local knowledge and environmental change in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia). Particularly interesting is the case of local knowledge about nature and who is "entitled" to use it.
Paper long abstract:
Human societies all across the globe have developed rich sets of experiences and explanations relating to the environments they live in. Knowledge, in a dwelling perspective, can be defined as skill, or «the experience gained through direct, "hands on" engagement in particular tasks » (Ingold 2001: 32-33). These "knowledge systems" are today often referred to as local knowledge, an issue that has been critically analyzed in many works (Nygren 1999, Geertz 1983). If, on the one hand, it has long been portrayed as a part of a romantic past, as a panacea for dealing with environmental problems (Agrawal 1995, Heyd 1995), on the other its monolithic character has been critically assessed, resulting in an approach that considers local knowledge as hybrid and changing through time. In Sakha Republic (Yakutia), one of the ways local knowledge can be analyzed is represented by the issue of nature: as in many non Western ontologies, it entails a complex set of representations that often refer to a world inhabited by spirit-masters and deities. The environment has always changed, but today its transformations trigger a wide variety of emotions and questions which my paper aims to investigate: how does local knowledge change when it copes with environmental changes? In such changing settings, is local knowledge still passed on from generation to generation or is it switching to a more "horizontal" way, from expert to expert? And also, if new forms of local knowledge are produced, who is "entitled" to use them (shamans, healers, religious experts?)
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