Rangifer and human interests
Keywords:Arctic, caribou, indigenous peoples, migration, nomenclature, reindeer, systematics, traditional ecological knowledge
AbstractThis article reviews biological and anthropological literatute on wild and tame Rangifer to demonstrate the powerful effect that this species has had on the imaginations of biologists, social scientists and local hunters. Through identifying a general 'human interest' in Rangifer, the author argues that there is great potential for these three communities to work together. To demonstrate this idea, the paper reviews several examples of successful and unsuccessful 'alliances' between local peoples and both natural and social scientists which have had a fundamental impact upon the history of these sciences. The paper examines recent theorerical models which suggest that human action is a major factor in the behaviour and ecology of the animals. The paper also analyses the ideas of many indigenous people for whom there is no categorical difference between semi-domesticated, semi-sedentary and migratory Rangifer through comparison with many 'anomalous' texts in English and Russian language wildlife biology. By reviewing the history of scholarly interest in Rangifer, the author argues that contemporary models of Rangifer behaviour and identity could be 'revitalised' and 'recalibrated' through the establishment of that dialogue between scientists and local peoples which so characterised the 19th century. Such a dialogue, it is argued, would help mediate many of the political conflicts now appearing in those districts where Rangifer migrate.
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