Nomadic and Indigenous Spaces: Productions and Cognitions


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Venue: University of Leipzig, Neues Seminargebäude
S202, Universitätsstraße 7

Convenors: Judith Miggelbrink & Günther Schlee

SFB 586 Difference and Integration (E8 & E9)

Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle
New Technologies in the Tundra: High-Tech Equipment, Perception of Space and Spatial Orientation of Nomadic and Settled Populations of the Russian Arctic

Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig
Power Technologies’ Productions of Space: Sámi Territoriality and Indigenity

Contact: Peter Koch (, +49 (0) 341 600 55 142)

Funded by: German Research Foundation (DFG)

Conference Outline

Nomadic communities have always had close relationships to settled communities and political organisations such as “the state”. The same is true for indigenous communities that were made ‘indigenous’ by colonizers and colonizing states. Space and spatial concepts are popular to describe and analyse certain dimensions of these relationships, in particular after the so-called spatial turn that has brought about new ways of using spatial concepts and metaphors. Among the numerous spatial aspects of social-science inquiry are: struggle for control over pastures and other resources, incorporation of the terra nullius into emerging nation states and administrative systems, place-making and place-naming, the organisation of herders’ movements via GPS, changing conditions of travelling owing to the use of mobile phones and other technologies, mapping of indigenous and nomadic spaces, and so forth. Some of these aspects refer to the discursive level (e.g. the status and symbolic position assigned to indigenous and nomadic people), while others refer to everyday practice and yet others to the cognitive level.

Different theoretical concepts help to illuminate and interpret the relation of both nomadism and indigeneity and space in different ways: On the one hand, there are production of space approaches that help explain how, by whom and to what ends space is produced within certain social conditions and how it might have effects on them. Cognition of space approaches, on the other hand, focus on processes of perception and navigation, their dynamics and stabilities. While both perspectives (and some others too) share their interest in spatial dimensions, they divert in ways that need careful dis¬cussion. Bringing these approaches together, one aim of the workshop is to understand how human practices operate with different conceptualizations of space, to be exemplified by case studies of nomadic and indigenous settings.

In order to create a productive frame, we decided to concentrate on two topics: First, the role of the state and statehood in the production and cognition of space with regard to nomadic and indigenous ways of living. Second, the role of technologies in the production and cognition of space, also with regard to nomadic and indigenous ways of living.

Central questions for the workshop are: In what sense is the category ‘space’ relevant in order to better understand phenomena of indigeneity and nomadism? What kinds of productions of space, both material and symbolic, are used by indigenous people and nomads to secure livelihoods, to create identities or to pursue political strategies? Are there specificities of spatial cognition among indigenous groups or nomads, and if so, how can they be characterized? What are the dynamics behind changes in spatial cognition?


Claudio Aporta, Ottawa
Ariel Bagg, Leipzig
Bernd Belina, Frankfurt a.M.
Ingo Breuer, Leipzig
Béatrice Collignon, Bologna
Brian Donahoe, Kyzyl
Gail Fondahl, Prince George
Jörg Gertel, Leipzig
Andreas Gruschke, Leipzig
Joachim Otto Habeck, Halle
Rudolf Havelka, Rovaniemi
Tobias Holzlehner, Fairbanks
Timothy Ingold, Aberdeen
Kirill Istomin, Halle
Peter Koch, Leipzig
Joseph Long, Halle
Nuccio Mazzullo, Leipzig
Judith Miggelbrink, Leipzig
Denis Retaillé, Bordeaux
Günther Schlee, Halle
Florian Stammler, Rovaniemi
Denis Wood, Raleigh