Multifaceted nature of subsoil beings in official and indigenous knowledge systems: the case of Soviet geologists and the Evenki people

A39, Sir Clive Granger Building, University Park
Wednesday 1st May 2024 (13:00-14:00)

With Nadezhda Mamontova, Birmingham University.

Part of the Cultural and Historical Geography Seminar Series.

The emergence of geological anthropology has recently challenged our conventional understanding of geos-bios relationship by challenging the boundaries separating life from non-life. This geological shift in social sciences has stimulated research on how these categories are produced and perceived in different societies.

This presentation aims to discuss the ontological properties of various ‘minerals’ and ‘rocks’ in the cosmology of indigenous hunting and reindeer herding Evenki communities, with a focus on the intricate and reciprocal relationships between humans and non-human subterranean forces. It further investigates a more than century-long history of interaction between state geology and indigenous people in Siberia.

Particular attention is paid to how geological institutions extracted and explored indigenous geological knowledge during the era of Soviet Russia, and how contemporary communities negotiate this historical legacy in their novel memory-production practices. The report also highlights the nuanced understanding of geomorphological processes amongst Soviet geologists in the 1920s – 1930s. Contrary to the prevailing political narrative of ‘conquering the nature’ and the necessity of evidence-based knowledge about mineral resources, archival documents demonstrate that Soviet geologists were far from seeing the subsoil terrain as static and passive but rather emphasised its diverse and multi-dimensional nature.

The focal point of this presentation is to demonstrate the complex interplay between official and indigenous geological knowledge systems in a historical perspective.

School of Geography

Sir Clive Granger Building
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

Contact us