Accepted paper:

Waiting for the Train: Expectations, Fears and Hopes in Siberia


Sigrid Schiesser (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

The development of a railroad in the Megino-Kangalasskiy region in Sakha (Yakutiya) has significantly influenced material and social conditions. In my paper, I will discuss how people anticipate their future lives in a region that will be connected to the Russian railroad network.

Paper long abstract:

Railroad connections may be taken for granted in large parts of Europe. In the Megino-Kangalasskiy region in Sakha (Yakutiya) however, people have been waiting for a passenger connection to be opened for more than a decade. Applying ethnographic methods, in 2015 and 2016 I researched peopleĀ“s expectations of their future lives in a rapidly changing material and social environment. The railroad development not only brings about a changing landscape as well as progressive urban development and recently implemented educational opportunities in the railroad industry, it also triggers enthusiasm, hopes and dreams as well as fears and disapproval. In this way, it causes intrinsic and societal debates on lifestyles and tradition as well as on immigration and connectivity. Anyhow, individuals include the railroad into their future life plans, no matter if people have a positive, negative or mixed attitude towards the developments. While 'waiting' is frequently thought of something rather passive, in my paper I will show that 'waiting' and 'anticipating' is an active process. Furthermore, I will provide a critical elaboration of the anthropological notion of 'waiting' and discuss the manifold ways individuals throughout different age and social groups handle the fact that their region will be connected to the Russian railroad network.

panel P108
Revisiting railroads: sociality, mobility and infrastructure