Working Paper 99

Companionship among the Evenki of Eastern Buryatia: a study of flexible and stable cultural elements

Tatiana Safonova, István Sántha

Siberian Studies Centre

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Working Paper 99

During fieldwork among the Evenki of Eastern Buryatia, we experienced many situations of instability, characterised by ever changing mood and absence of commitments. We use the concept of a self-corrective system taken from Gregory Bateson to analyse the flexibility of the Evenki culture. We found that the social organisation of this former hunter society is based on companionship. This form of organisation consists of self-corrective circuits, which give flexibility in every concrete situation, but ensure stability for a long term period. This cybernetic vision gives us the opportunity to deal with such difficult topics as alcohol consumption and aggression in Siberian everyday life. We also study a special pattern of behaviour called pokazukha that evolves in response to strangers’ expectations and wishes to see the Evenki culture as stable and controllable.

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