Accepted Paper:

Kant's Noumenon in North-East Siberia: Area spirits and pop songs  

Author:

Eleanor Peers (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation considers song as mediating presences that surpass the perceptive categories we normally use, though they are an integral aspect of life. The ethnography traces the continuities between two forms of song, both situated in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), in north-eastern Siberia.

Paper long abstract:

Beauty, with its horror and power, is a difficult phenomenon to situate within the post-Enlightenment tradition of analysing and describing life. Scholarly discussions of aesthetics - the apprehension of beauty - have a capacity to re-frame an experience involving the whole person and her surroundings into contrasting arrangements of abstracted aesthetic, ethical and political values. This presentation considers aesthetic experience as mediating and embodying presences that surpass the perceptive capacities and categories we normally use, although they are an integral aspect of life. It seeks to enhance the post-Enlightenment discussion of beauty, by returning to a prominent line of thought in the Enlightenment tradition - namely, Kant's theory of the aesthetic. The ethnography traces the continuities between two forms of song, linked by their situation in a single territory - the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), in north-eastern Siberia - and community, the Sakha people. Both the Ohuokhai choral dance and Sakha pop music are beautiful because they mediate deep, partially hidden interrelationships. This is a beauty that cross-cuts distinctions between 'indigenous' and 'Euro-American', or 'traditional animist' and 'modern secular'. It shows that Kant's positioning of aesthetic experience in the interstices, and yet also beyond, knowledge and communication provides a useful set of preliminary markers for the examination of both spiritual practice, and popular culture.

Panel P042
Knowing by singing: song, acoustic ecologies and the overflow of meaning