Though I’m interested in the discussion that compares your comments to racism among humans, I’m more intrigued by your connection to pastoral societies and nomadic societies and the dictation on their religion. I think you’ve picked up on something here, especially in that pastoral societies have developed a religion that mirrors their relationship with God as their shepherd. Furthermore, God granted Adam dominion over animals, which I think has had a lasting impression on the relationship with animals in a Christian society, in which humans are viewed as the most important beings and all other creatures are at our mercy. This is different from the society of the reindeer people in which all living things have souls and a consciousness just like humans do. This could have a very lasting impression on how each of those societies treat their domesticated animals.
First, I’m very interested that you experienced real reindeer burgers. That’s so strange to me! I think it strikes me as odd because I picture reindeer as horses in our culture, and it would be very weird for us to eat horse burgers. Also, I’m really glad that you brought up the commodification of the reindeer. I was interested in this topic from Goat Song, and it was definitely on my mind all throughout this week’s reading. I like the comparison you made between communism and capitalism. In my opinion, Soviet communism doesn’t look at all like the communism laid out by Marx and Engels that was brought up in Goat Song. Based on this, I think the commodification of domesticated animals has been very similar in Soviet communism, American capitalism, and many other political structures in the world. I think Reindeer People does a good job of explaining the way our relationship with animals has shifted as humans have entered the modern era. I’m probably biased along with you on my desire to dive much further into the topic of political structures and their influence on domestication!
The idea of domesticated people makes me think of The Time Machine, where humanity had diverged into two groups, a society of effeminate idle people, and the cannibalistic under-dwellers who feed on them and provide them with material goods. Except in such an extreme sense I can’t see “domesticated people” being applicable in the sense you’re using it.
Apparently there have been projects to introduce reindeer herding in Alaska as early as the 1890s, between 20 and 30 years after it was purchased from Russia. (http://www.foresthistory.org/fellowships/willis.pdf) That reminded me of another similar project, introducing camels to the mid-west. Unfortunately they didn’t work well alongside horses and couldn’t deal with rocky terrain. (http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/01/03/the-military-camels-of-the-north-american-west/)
I think Corinne is right about domestic and tame reindeer populations being very similar in terms of their genetic make up, and the comparison with feral / “domestic” cats is a good one. I think it also works to take that a step further. The Eveni don’t even try to domesticate wild reindeer, but domestic reindeer can become wild pretty quickly.
I’m glad Kara hasn’t seen Frozen because I was worried I was the only person around who had missed it! There are so many good ideas in this post. I agree that the caribou / reindeer /domestication triad is really interesting. The piece that intrigues me the most is the presence of both wild and domestic reindeer in the same place and the liminality of domestication in this context. I’ve read this book several times, and still can’t quite get my head around the Eveni’s use of domestic reindeer to hunt wild reindeer. BTW, Sven needs to get a handle on the plural of reindeer.
When trying to make sense of Bayani and the concept of animals “delivering themselves” I find it helpful to look back at Ingold’s article, “From Trust to Domination” which talks about how hunter gatherers understand their relationship with prey animals (and how domestication changes that understanding).
Kelly I think you’re right in applying that logic to racism. There are a bunch of studies in psychology and sociology that show that “cooperative contact” between racial groups (or other types of groups) can often reduce conflict and lead to improved relations. An example might be something called “jigsaw classrooms” where children are given pieces of information, and that information must be combined cooperatively to complete an assignment. It forces interracial students to cooperate and their relations improve afterwards.
I like your comments about the difference between all encompassing and homogenous “cows” and unique and personalized “our dog Rover.” I think it’s a function of how close we are to something, be it animal or person. We’re very close to pets, so we automatically assume other people’s dogs (or cats, though come on… dogs > cats) are as unique as ours and usually attribute them a specific name rather than just a bland mark of “dog.” Do you think that could be a factor in interactions between people (like racism)? For instance: I know nothing about this person other than the fact he/she is black/yellow/red/white/brown. Because I’m not close to them, they mean nothing to me and can thus be described by the color of their skin. As soon as we interact with people on a more individual and meaningful level, we realize a broad stroke can’t describe them and assign them a “higher status” in our order of thinking?
That comment makes a lot of sense in my head but if you don’t understand it please forgive me, it’s been a long weekend and my brain is fried on Biochemistry…
Ah okay that makes more sense to me now. Thanks for clarifying that up!