The Travelling Ethnologist. Triste Arctique in a shamanic costume, under a festival masque
The everyday life of the Eveny, a group of reindeer herders of Yakutia (Siberia) is split or dissociated in several ways. The male herders, migrating continuously in the taiga, are separated from their settled-down womenfolk, which results in a basic discontinuity in the transmission of culture. With the post-soviet economic collapse animal husbandry lost its meaning. The purpose of the reindeer herders festival in Topolino is to re-establish hope and a sense of meaning. Organized and choreographed by local authorities, which accounts for its bureaucratic folklore and political nostalgia, it gives nevertheless the herders a rare chance 'to show off themselves and to look at the others'. A crucial personage of the old culture, the shaman, moved away to the capital city, where the customers are. And so did another unusual member of the Eveny group, Anatoliy Alekseev, an outstanding culture broker who introduced Savey, a shaman from the taiga, to the modern city public. With his truly tricksterian qualities, he provides an impressive mix of mythological and scientific explanations for Savey's actions, thus enriching their spiritual dimension and contributing to their attractiveness.
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