Working Paper 45

Mothering Tradition: gender and governance among Siberian Evenki

Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov

Department ‘Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia’

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Working Paper 45

In this paper, I explore the re-invention of ideas about the traditional place of women in a Siberian society as they were culturally produced in the context of the Soviet/Russian indigenous governance. I examine two governance frameworks: the one of 'political economy' of the early- Soviet period, which constructed the position of indigenous women as a 'surrogate working class'; and the other of the late-Soviet 'theory of ethnos' which biologised the gender roles and identities. I look at the cultural effects that these governance frameworks had on indigenous notions of gender, and, the other way around, I explore gender as a site of state governance over indigenous communities - and a site of culture change in both the meanings of being indigenous and meanings of the paternalistic state. In doing so, I discuss the limits of the 'invention of tradition' model, and argue for the usefulness of Slavoj Zizek's notion of 'surplus of signification' in the understanding of cultural production of gender.

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