Territory as intimacy: transition and stasis in the Sakha people's Yhyakh
(University of Cambridge)
Paper short abstract:
Sakha communities in north-east Siberia have been creating Yhyakh rituals for many centuries. These festivals celebrate the Sakha community, understood in the broadest possible sense. I explore the continuing power of the Yhyakh - and in so doing I highlight one interrelation of stasis and change.
Paper long abstract:
Sakha communities in Sakha (Yakutia), north-east Siberia, have been creating Yhyakh rituals for many centuries. As this paper shows, these festivals articulate and celebrate the Sakha community, understood in the broadest possible sense. The rivers, forests, animals and their guardians are part of this community, along with the Sakha people's ancestors, and an extensive pantheon of good and evil deities. Indeed, the community instantiated in the Yhyakh is its own incarnation of space, movement and transition. The territory occupied by Sakha people is a web of intimate relationships - rather than an empty backdrop to human action, only enacted and seen through the institutions and procedures of the Russian Federal state. Within these relationships movement and transition occur through feeling - and, at the Yhyakh, through the glorious aesthetic experience of poetry, song, dance and dress. But Sakha communities are caught up in the rapid modernising change that is currently transforming both the former Soviet Union, and the Circumpolar North. Increasingly, contemporary patterns of life and work are predicated on the empty spaces and lonely trajectories that underlie globalised employment, transition and lifestyle. Why, then, is the Yhyakh bigger and louder than ever? In this paper, I explore the continuing power of the Yhyakh, its aesthetic, and the community it reveals - and in so doing I highlight one interrelation of stasis and change.
Tilting the globe: creativity, transition and stasis in the Circumpolar North