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Obituary

Lydia T. Black (1925-2007)

Peter Schweitzer

Dr. Lydia T. Black, Professor Emerita of Anthropology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, died on 12 March 2007, at age 81, in Kodiak, Alaska.

Free access

Introduction

Precarious Connections: On the Promise and Menace of Railroad Projects

Peter Schweitzer and Olga Povoroznyuk

Abstract

This introduction attempts to situate railroads, which have rarely been the object of ethnographic attention, within current debates of anthropology and related disciplines. While mobility is certainly one dimension of human-railroad entanglements, the introduction calls to explore political, social, material, and affective lives of railroads in Europe and Asia as well. Often, connections provided by railroads are precarious at best: enveloped in state and local politics, they appear to some as promise and to others as menace. Planning, construction, decay, and reconstruction constitute the temporal and material life cycle of these infrastructures. Attending to particular ethnographic and historical contexts, the introduction aims to demonstrate how railroads, these potent symbols of modernity, continue to be good to think with.

The version of record is December 2020, though the actual publication date is May/June 202.

Open access

Peter Schweitzer and Olga Povoroznyuk

The Soviet Union and its successor states have been avid supporters of a modernisation paradigm aimed at ‘overcoming remoteness’ and ‘bringing civilisation’ to the periphery and its ‘backward’ indigenous people. The Baikal–Amur Mainline (BAM) railroad, built as a much‐hyped prestige project of late socialism, is a good example of that. The BAM has affected indigenous communities and reconfigured the geographic and social space of East Siberia. Our case study, an Evenki village located fairly close to the BAM, is (in)famous today for its supposed refusal to get connected via a bridge to the nearby railroad town. Some actors portray this disconnection as a sign of backwardness, while others celebrate it as the main reason for native language retention and cultural preservation. Focusing on discourses linking the notions of remoteness and cultural revitalisation, the article argues for conceptualising the story of the missing bridge not as the result of political resistance but rather as an articulation of indigeneity, which foregrounds cultural rights over more contentious political claims. Thus, the article explores constellations of remoteness and indigeneity, posing the question whether there might be a moral right to remoteness to be claimed by those who view spatial distance as a potential resource.

Restricted access

Who owns Siberian ethnography?

A critical assessment of a re-internationalized field

Patty Gray, Nikolai Vakhtin, and Peter Schweitzer

Although Siberian ethnography was an open and international field at the turn of the twentieth century, from about 1930 until the late 1980s Siberia was for the most part closed to foreigners and therefore to Western ethnographers. This allowed Soviet ethnographers to establish a virtual monopoly on Siberian field sites. Soviet and Western anthropology developed during that period in relative isolation from one another, allowing methodologies and theoretical approaches to diverge. During glasnost' and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Siberian field was reopened and field studies were conducted by several Western ethnographers. The resulting encounter between Western and former Soviet ethnographers in the 1980s and 1990s produced a degree of cultural shock as well as new challenges and opportunities on both sides. This is an experiential account of the mood of these newly reunited colleagues at the turn of the twenty-first century.

Restricted access

Ryan T. Jones, Anna Bara, Galina V Grosheva, Ekaterina Gruzdeva, Peter Schweitzer, Kathryn Demps, and Roza Laptander

A World Trimmed with Fur: Wild Things and the Natural Fringes of Qing Rule Jonathan Schlesinger (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2017), 288 pp. ISBN: 9780804799966

Ethnic and Religious Minorities in Stalin’s Soviet Union: New Dimensions of Research Andrej Kotljarchuk and Olle Sundström, eds. (Stockholm: Elanders, 2017), 283 pp., paperback $27.00. ISBN: 978-91-7601-777-7.

Kosmologiia i praktika sibirskogo shamanizma Elena V. Nam (Tomsk: Tomskii gosudarstvennyi universitet, 2017), 296 pp. ISBN: 978-5-7511-2521-9.

Kul’tura i resursy. Opyt etnologicheskogo obsledovaniia sovremennogo polozheniia narodov Severnogo Sakhalina Dmitrii Funk, ed. (Moscow: “Demos,” 2015), 272 pp. ISBN 978-5-9904710-6-1.

Maritime Hunting Culture of Chukotka: Traditions and Modern Practices Igor Krupnik and Rachel Mason, eds. (Anchorage, AK: National Park Service, Shared Beringian Heritage Program, 2016), 343 pp. ISBN: 9780990725251. Litsom k moriu: Pamiati Liudmily Bogoslovskoi Igor Krupnik, ed. (Moscow: Moskva, 2016), 647 pp. ISBN 9785600013650.

T-Bone Whacks and Caviar Snacks: Cooking with Two Texans in Siberia and the Russian Far East Sharon Hudgins (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2018), 448 pp. ISBN: 9781574417142.

Bij de Joekagieren. Het oudste toendravolk van Noord-Oost Siberië / Life with the Yukaghir: Northeast Siberia’s Oldest Tundra People Cecilia Odé (Lias, Uitgeverij: Verschijningsjass, 2018), 240 pp., €29.95 (paperback). ISBN: 978-90-8803-099-4.