Thursday, April 23, 2009

Warning of Global Warming? Shamanic Tradition, Politics and Ecological Change in Siberia

Warning of Global Warming? Shamanic Tradition, Politics and Ecological Change in Siberia, presented by Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer, Georgetown University

Siberian indigenous peoples' striving for self-determination and spiritual vitality has been an impressive trend in the past twenty years, but their efforts are threatened by political, social and ecological change. This talk, based on long-term fieldwork in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) and beyond, probes the implications of indigenous peoples’ concerns. The focus is on the Sakha (Yakut), who are the farthest north of the Turkic language speakers, and the majority indigenous group of their multiethnic republic in the Far East of the Russian Federation. Since the Soviet Union collapsed, they have been coping with the tensions of increased development, mixed-signal federal policies, and valiant attempts at cultural revitalization.

In summer 2007, a close Sakha colleague, Uliana Vinokurova, sociologist and former deputy in the Sakha Republic’s parliament, shared her concern about climate change reaching the Far North region where she grew up. Not only had their villages seen more numerous and serious floods in the past decade, she explained, "the folk wisdom of our elders does not seem to predict our climate the way it used to.” People were worrying about the broader encompassing health, ecology and social problems that fluctuations seem to bring, and whether rituals of cultural and ecological renewal could stem the tide. How far do the ripple effects of climate change go? How do indigenous land keepers discuss the dangers and potential remedies of change? Are indigenous Siberians who rely on subsistence the "canaries in the mine" — warning of global warming?

April 30, 2009, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm
Mary Pickford Theater, 3rd Floor, James Madison Building

Through the Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lecture Series, the American Folklife Center presents the best of current research and practice in Folklore, Folklife, and closely related fields. The year-round series of monthly lectures invites professionals from both academia and the public sector to present findings from their ongoing research and fieldwork. The Botkin series is free and open to the general public. In addition, each lecture is video and audio recorded by the AFC for permanent deposit in the Archive of Folk Culture, where students, scholars, and other interested people can access them.

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1 comment:

Billy Jack said...

This interests me because of having a little awareness of the liveliness of their shamanic traditions and how richly & colourfully it pervades their cultures.
That they are expressing worry over the broader consequences for them of global warming and climate change already shows that they are sensitively aware of what is happening, which strikes me as being a more healthy take on the matter than trying to live in denial about it.
A couple of observations from points brought up in the article:
- I would like to put to rest the sort of insinuation of how the phrase of "canaries in the
mine" has been applied, since it communicates the suggestion that there are perhaps still only vaguely undetermined hints of what 'may' be taking place far away from most of us. I do know that the Sakha are most definitely not the 'canaries in the mine'. The 'canaries in the mine' in relation to these issues are not canaries at all, they are Chinese coal-mine workers. How apt is it then that a variant on this phrase is 'canary in the coal-mine'?
- By this time is it any longer even necessary to be asking a question such as "How far do the ripple effects of climate change go?"

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