'Sharing in the life of Sami reindeer herders': how the ethnographically created image of Sami reindeer herding becomes a tourist attraction in the Russian North
Vladislava Vladimirova (Uppsala University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper presents contemporary ethnography from tourist businesses in Northwest Russia. It investigates the patterns and practices of reproduction and economic exploitation of the academically constructed concept of Sami reindeer herding, and the social tensions that such practices create.
Paper long abstract:
Two academic traditions give life to the concept of Sami reindeer herding in the European North of Russia. The first, imported from the Fennoscandic ethnopolitical debate, posits reindeer herding as the symbolic base of Sami culture and identity. Transposed to the Kola Peninsula, this idea presents the Russian Sami population as intrinsically connected with reindeer herding, and consequently - reindeer herding on the Kola as an exclusively Sami way of life. The second tradition originates from Russian Ethnography, and, specifically, Soviet reindeer herding typologies which single out Sami herding as a highly distinct type. Local people tend to use the phrase "Sami herding" in a variety of ways too, thus contributing to the general polysemy. All of these multiple and context-dependent senses, associated with Sami reindeer herding, tend to popularise the misconception that Kola reindeer herding is a synonym for Sami reindeer herding - i.e. one practiced today by ethnic Sami people. This image, most often used in ethnopolitical rhetoric, has also been increasingly employed for business purposes, particularly in tourism. This paper presents contemporary ethnography from tourist businesses in Northwest Russia. It investigates the patterns and practices of reproduction and economic exploitation of the concept of Sami reindeer herding, and the social tensions that such practices create.
Imagineering the past: the (mis)uses of anthropology and archaeology in tourism