A.V. Golovnev. The Arctic Nomads: Strategies of Mobility
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Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology
of Eurasia

44 (4) 2016


DOI: 10.17746/1563-0110.2016.44.4.131-140


The Arctic Nomads: Strategies of Mobility

A.V. Golovnev

Institute of History and Archaeology, Ural Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, S. Kovalevskoi 16, Yekaterinburg, 620990, Russia

The research focuses on the Chukotka, Yamal, and Kola peninsulas––the three source areas of Arctic reindeerherding nomadism. The method of recording movement, termed TMA (tracking–mapping–acting), reveals a multidimensional pattern of nomadic movement with peaks and pauses, personal and social trajectories. The comparison of tracks shows that in contrast to ordinary reindeer-herders, leaders perform more complex and extended maneuvers for surveying vicinities, evaluating the situation, and specifying next steps. Three “close-ups” of leaders demonstrate their dense activity-patterns, covering natural and social environment and ensuring control over territory, reindeer, the nomadic community, external contacts, and threat prevention. In terms of spatial control and movement, herders practice different styles such as “circular” (Chukotka), “migratory” (Yamal), and “fenced” (Kola). In all three tundras, key roles belong to infl uential leaders whose experience and energy are the backbone of reindeer-herding. In turn, the leaders argue that husbandry is ineffi cient without authoritarian control, although they widely use social (including kin) ties in their strategies. Nomads and their leaders rely upon traditions, but are open to innovations. Reindeer symbolize the identity of Arctic nomadic cultures, since herding provides autonomy in subsistence, movement, and communication. However, traditional technologies of life-in-motion can be seen as valuable resources for present-day Arctic strategies.

Keywords: Mobility, nomads, leaders, strategies, movement, Arctic, Chukchi, Nenets, Saami, Izhma-Komi


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