Theories of Nomadic Movement: A New Theoretical Approach for Understanding the Movement Decisions of Nenets and Komi Reindeer Herders

Type de publication  Journal Article
Auteur(s)  Dwyer, M.J.; Istomin, K.V.
Titre de la revue  Human Ecology
Volume  36
Année  2008
Pages  521-533

It is known that the relationship between humans and their animals is important for understanding many aspects of nomadic pastoralist systems, including nomadic movement. However, to date, these complex human–animal relations have not been analyzed in a way that has led to an explanatory model of nomadic movement capable of producing testable hypotheses. Based on ethnographic material collected amongst Komi and Nenets nomadic reindeer herders of the Russian Arctic, we argue that nomadic movements can be best understood as a product of the interplay that exists between animal behaviour and the herders’ skilful actions to (a) maintain herd cohesion and (b) avoid hazards, whilst deploying the minimum amount of resources (i.e., human/animal effort and use of equip- ment) on rounding up the herd, stopping and turning it. Ecological factors affect movement through their influence on animal behaviour, whereas non-ecological factors do so by influencing the herders’ skilful actions. We demonstrate that, based on these assumptions, it is possible to build a testable model explaining the movement of some nomadic groups.


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