Cosmology and Human-Animal Relations

Cosmology and Human-Animal Relations in the Saian Mountains of South Siberia between the 19th and 21st Centuries

A Oehler soiot horseThis project explored how indigenous ontology, especially in regard to human-animal relations, has been maintained over the course of the past 200 years in the Saian Mountains of South Siberia.

As part of a larger study on human-animal relations emplaced within sentient landscapes across the north, it assessed how traditional cosmology continues to direct the ways in which humans interact with animals.

Hunting and reindeer domestication have been two ancient practices with deep roots in this region. These twin practices have forged indigenous ways of knowing about the environment that have stood in ontological opposition to outside paradigms, among them being the theology of the Russian Orthodox Church, the doctrines of Tibetan Buddhism, the scientific rational of Soviet education, and more recently the emerging demands of a neoliberal market economy.

Drawing on archival and ethnographic data, the project investigated how the local population has negotiated these and other outside challenges to their traditional ways, and whether outside demands have affected any changes in the ways in which people live with animals in their environment.