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This is an insightful, highly original ethnographic interpretation of the hunting life of the Yukaghirs, a little-known group of indigenous people in the Upper Kolyma region of northeastern Siberia. Basing his study on firsthand experience with Yukaghir hunters, Rane Willerslev focuses on the practical implications of living in a "hall-of-mirrors" world—one inhabited by humans, animals, and spirits, all of whom are understood to be endless mimetic doubles of one another. In this world human beings inhabit a betwixt-and-between state in which their souls are both substance and nonsubstance, both body and soul, both their own individual selves and reincarnated others. Hunters are thus both human and the animals they imitate, which forces them to steer a complicated course between the ability to transcend difference and the necessity of maintaining identity.
List of Illustrations
1. Animism as Mimesis
2. To Kill or Not to Kill: Rebirth, Sharing, and Risk
3. Body-Soul Dialectics: Human Rebirth Beliefs
4. Ideas of Species and Personhood
5. Animals as Persons
7. The Spirit World
8. Leaning and Dreaming
9. Taking Animism Seriously
Rane Willerslev is Associate Professor in the Institute for Anthropology, Archaeology, and Linguistics at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. He is also the author of Hunting and Trapping in Siberia (2000).
“Willerslev’s engagements with phenomenology, perspectivism, and mimesis makes a valuable and timely contribution to contemporary debates on knowledge diversity.”—Lesley Green Social Anthropology
“A valuable contribution to the literature on animism as well as general anthropology and local Siberian studies. . . . Highly recommended.”—E. J. Vajda Choice
“This extraordinary book merits a wide audience.”—Bruce Grant Journal American Academy Of Religion/ Jaar
combines intimate ethnographic knowledge of Yukaghir hunting practices with sophisticated phenomenological analysis and an impressive comparative range. The book critiques and revivifies familiar concepts and interpretive traditions, most notably 'animism' and 'shamanism.' It contains many original comparative arguments and analyses, and the ethnographic examples are always lucidly described. A remarkable book."—James Clifford, author The Predicament of Culture
is a detailed and theoretically original ethnography which will make an important contribution to the anthropology of Siberia and hunter-gatherers more generally.”—Nikolai V. Ssorin-Chaikov, author of The Social Life of the State in Subarctic Siberia
makes a highly original contribution to Yukaghir ethnography, as well as to theoretical discussions about the nature of spiritual knowledge. The work will provide the starting point for several future debates in contemporary anthropology.”—Peter Schweitzer, co-editor of Hunters and Gatherers in the Modern World: Conflict, Resistance, and Self-Determination