Reindeer Culture

I found this reading to be excessively refreshing and new.  Over the past couple of weeks the investigation on the definition and creation of domestication, although interesting, has become frustrating as of late.  It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that these inquiries have no set answer or even set boundaries of theories.  I enjoyed the emphasis on culture and its relationship with domestication present throughout this book and how the author did not harp on what domestication is as a whole, but rather what it meant to a certain group of people.

The respect for the reindeer evident throughout history and culture really spiked my interest.  The symbol of the reindeer seemed to be much more than a product of a relationship between people and animal.  For example, even after the reindeer retreated up north as temperatures began to rise, people still dressed horses as reindeer and made paintings of reindeer.  Why where reindeer still a major part of a culture even after their departure?  Horses replaced the roles of the reindeer but still weren’t as integrated in the culture of the time as reindeer to the extent that horses were actually made to look like reindeer.

Another topic that created more questions than answers for me was the conversation on the domestication of reindeer.  People native to North America have never domesticated the reindeer whereas in Siberia reindeer have been.  This is a trend unique to reindeer that is not present in other species.  When other species became domesticated they were actually taken to other parts of the world, for the most part, making their domestication a universal thing yet reindeer are present as wild and domesticated, in almost even amounts.

This takes me back to reindeer and their part in the culture of the “Reindeer People” and reminds me of the article by Ingold. The respect between the Reindeer People and their reindeer provides an example of the trust Ingold discusses in his article.  The most interesting part of this reading for me was the interaction between domestic and post domestic society.  It is clear that Piers does not condone the restrictions and changes that the Russian government implemented on the Reindeer people.  My favorite quote of the reading addresses the conflict between domestic and post domestic society perfectly:

“As with any ideal world set up by the gods who then retreated back to a distant heaven, it had been impossible to stick to this blueprint.”

Clearly there is a lack of understanding between these two parties and it has affected the culture the Reindeer People.  Due to Piers’ close relationship with the Reindeer People he must have a biased opinion on this subject but he does present positive and negative by products of such a conflict.  Of these I found the positive very important because obviously there is going to be negative impacts on a people subjected to rules that don’t have their best intentions in mind.  Out of all the negative impacts, Piers presented a positive one with the story of the boy who provided scientific reasoning behind his carvings of a dead carcass while the father provided reasoning based on myth.  Does this prove that the post domestic thought of the Russian government can benefit the domestic culture of the Reindeer People or are the ways of these people efficient enough?  Efficiency of a post domestic society varies greatly from that of a society like the Reindeer People, who have already been forced to change their ways to provide meat to a third party.  How can a system set up to fulfill one culture be altered to meet the needs of a separate culture?

3 Responses to “Reindeer Culture”
  1. Bill Libby 19 February 2013 at 2:11 am #

    I think we can all agree that this reading has been refreshing and a much needed reprieve from the realm of scholarly speculation. It was nice to see these ideas in practice.

    In regards to the non-domestication of reindeer in North America, I think it’s important to ask ourselves 1) For what purpose the reindeer was domesticated in Siberia, 2) Was that purpose relevant to the needs of the ancient North Americans, and 3) Was there another domesticate that filled the same role as the reindeer in Siberia for less effort? Also, even though I have my issues with his theory, Diamond would probably argue that the North American reindeer/caribou wasn’t domesticated because it is incapable of being domesticated.

    • 13yankeesfan 19 February 2013 at 3:56 am #

      So you think it was more of a difference in the species than a lack of cause or need in North America?

  2. A. Nelson 19 February 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    It’s complicated! I’ve set up the googledoc for today and cited an article that helps clarify this. You will probably need to sign in to the library’s proxy server to access the article.

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