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"Vildrenen är själv detsamma som en gud": "gudar" och "andar" i sovjetiska etnografers beskrivningar av samojediska världsåskådningar
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies.
2008 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
«Дикий олень сам все равно что бог» : «боги» и «духи» в описании советскими этнографами самодийских мировоззрений (Russian)
Abstract [en]

This thesis examines strategies and practices, in Soviet ethnographic research, concerning terminologies for and classifications of what in research texts are conventionally called “supernatural beings” in the world views of the Samoyedic peoples. The question is put whether there are any general rules for the terminology used by scholars for these kinds of beings. The thesis also explores claims that a conventional ethnographic terminology, consisting of technical terms such as gods, goddesses, spirits, owners etc., leads to misinterpretations of the indigenous conceptions under study. By presenting, analysing and discussing Soviet scholars’ strategies and practices in this regard, the thesis is a contribution to the ongoing debate among historians of religions on the use of scientific terminology for beings in different world views. It is also, to a limited extent, a source critical investigation of Soviet research on the religions of the Samoyedic peoples. In chapter 2 the international scholarly debate on terminology for so called supernatural beings is summarized and discussed. The principles for constructing concepts in general are also delineated, using prototype theory and a model for polythetic definition. In chapter 3 a survey over the purposes, main fields of interest, and theoretical and methodological development of Soviet ethnography is presented as an essential background to the investigation of individual ethnographic texts. Chapter 4 and 5 constitute the empirical part of the thesis, with a presentation and analysis of Soviet ethnographic descriptions of beings in the world views of the Samoyedic speaking Nenets, Enets, Sel’kup and Nganasan. Since findings on Nganasan world view in Soviet ethnography was seen as particularly viable for reconstructions of proposed primitive communist thought, matriarchal society, the origin of religion, and mankind’s development of beliefs in “spirits” and “gods”, chapter 5 is solely dedicated to the research on the Nganasan. In chapter 6 the result of the empirical part of the study is confronted with the questions put in chapter 1, as well as the theoretical and methodological conclusions of chapter 2. It is concluded that there is no typical Marxist-Leninist terminology for “supernatural beings”, but that certain developments regarding terminology and classifications in Soviet ethnography on the Samoyeds can be detected. These developments consists of (1) a growing awareness among ethnographers of the distinction between indigenous, emic and etic terminology – an awareness which makes their descriptions become more detailed and closer to the Samoyedic sources. (2) From the 1960s one can trace an ever deepening reliance on Marxist-Leninist theory in Soviet Samoyedology. In accordance with Marxist ideas about primeval society as matriarchal and non-religious, ethnographers focused more and more on (and discovered more) female beings in Samoyedic world views. They also interpreted the “beings” under study as remnants of a primeval materialistic world view and proposed explanations of their development from “natural” to “supernatural beings”. It is also concluded that there are no general rules for scientific terminology. Technical terms are chosen in accordance with the varying aims and theoretical standpoints of different scholars. Whether the terms are appropriate or not, depends on their transparency.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Institutionen för idé- och samhällsstudier , 2008. , 382 p.
Nordliga studier, ISSN 2000-0391 ; 1
Keyword [en]
Soviet ethnography, Marxism-Leninism and religion, scientific terminology, indigenous religions, Samoyedic peoples, Nganasan
National Category
History of Religions
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-1951ISBN: 978-91-88466-74-7OAI: diva2:142547
Public defence
2009-01-16, S205h, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:00
Available from: 2008-12-19 Created: 2008-12-19 Last updated: 2013-04-02Bibliographically approved

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