Prof. Dr. Günther Schlee


Dr. Kirill Istomin
Dr. Florian Stammler (retired)


 Rentierzüchter blickt in den nomadischen Raum
 Rentierherde in der Tundra
 Das Dorf als sesshafter Raum und Verbindung zu Geschäften und Absatzmärkten


other Phase of Research:

2008–2012 (E8)

Project Group B: Conflict and Control, Project B6

Orientation in, perception and utilisation of space on the edge of the Arctic: Nomads and Sedentary people in Northwest Siberia


Subject of this research is the perception of and orientation in space among different users of the tundra in Siberia, such as reindeer herders, fishermen, traders, administrators or industrial workers. These groups of actors differ in terms of their way of life, notably they are either sedentary, nomadic or both. Since they use the tundra in different ways, they have varying interests in this space.

The geographical focus of this research is in the Russian North, to the immediate east and west of the Polar Ural Mountains. This is the area of Nenets (earlier: Samoyed) reindeer nomads. After the fall of the Soviet Union, they find themselves increasingly confronted with the sedentary world. Their tundra has become of vital interest because of big oil and gas reserves under the reindeer pastures and in the fishing waters of the Nentsy. The nomadic perception of this space, however, centres on the complex interrelation between the components "pasture", "hunting grounds", "migration routes" and "sacred sites".

The overall goal of this research is to contribute to a better understanding of human perception of and orientation in space. Cases studied in anthropological fieldwork are used to identify the differing conceptualisations of space and their interrelations with one another. (picture 1). From there, we expect an answer to the theoretical question of whether a categorisation in absolute, relative or intrinsic systems of orientation in space can be maintained, or whether other systems are more appropriate to describe reality at this point.

Initial research points to a perception of space in that region, where the 'nomadic' and the 'sedentary' are still fairly separate from each other, in spite of significant efforts to sedentarize the pastoralist population during the Soviet Union. This is why we see the village, or trading post, as an important connecting element between the two components, which regulates their interrelations.

Nomads can get access to urban centres in order to sell their produce mostly through contacts to villages, and actors in the towns and cities cannot get access to the tundra without going through the gates kept by key persons in the villages. Where sedentary and nomadic life meet, we expect to analyse best the difference and the interface between various systems of orientation in space. A thorough analysis of the village and its function as a "gatekeeper" for nomads as well as sedentary people therefore is promising to clarify the extent and importance of contacts for both sides.


Prof. Dr. Günther Schlee

Redrawing the map of the Horn: the politics of difference. In: Africa 73 (3) (2003), 343–368.

Régularités dans le chaos. Traits récurrents dans l'organisation politico-religieuse et militaire des Somali. In: L'Homme 161, 1 (2002), 17–49.

with Karaba Sahado: Rendille proverbs in their social and legal context. Köln 2002.

with Diallo, Y. (eds.): L'ethnicité peule dans des contextes nouveaux. Paris 2000.

Nomades et l'Etat au nord du Kenya. In: A. Bourgeot (ed.): Horizons nomades en Afrique sahélienne. Paris, 219–239.

Ritual topography and ecological use. The Gabbra of the Kenyan/Ethiopian borderlands. In: Parkin, D./ Croll, E. (eds.): Bush base: forest farm. London/ New York 1992, 110–128.

Traditional Pastoralists – Land Use Strategies. In: Republic of Kenya, Ministry of Livestock Development: Range Management Handbook of Kenya Vol. II, 1 (1991), 130–164.

Identities on the move: clanship and pastoralism in northern Kenya. Manchester, New York 1989 (Reprint: Nairobi, Hamburg, Münster 1994).

Nomaden und Staat. Das Beispiel Nordkenia. In: Sociologus 34, 2 (1984), 140–161.

Das Glaubens- und Sozialsystem der Rendille. Kamelnomaden Nordkenias. Berlin 1979.

Dr. Kirill Istomin

My smotrim na mir – mir smotrit na nas: predmetno-prostranstvennye otnosheniia i ikh oboznachenie kak element semioticheskoi kartiny mira [We look at the world – the world looks at us: spatial relations between objects and their meaning as an element of the semiotic map of the world]. In: Fadeeva, I. E. (ed.): Semiosis i kul'tura: sbornik nauchnykh statei, vol. 2, 130–136. – Syktyvkar: Komi Pedagogicheskii Institut 2006.

Komi-izhemskoe olenevodstvo: istoriografiia dvukh vekov izucheniia" [Reindeer husbandry of the Izhma Komi: historiography of two centuries of investigation]. In: Studia Juvenalia, vol. 2 (2005), 88–102. Syktyvkar: Komi Nauchnyi Tsentr.

Oil and reindeer – traditional methods of pasture selection among Komi herders and the relevance to conflicts over land use. In: Northern Veche: Proceedings of the Second NRF Open Meeting. Akureyri: Stefansson Institute; University of Akureyri 2004, 184–187 [englische Version] und 187–190 [russische Version].

mit Dronova, T. I.: Mezhetnicheskoe vzaimodeistvie v Pechorskom krae: nentsy, russkie (ust'-tsylema) i komi-izhemtsy [Interethnic interactions in the Pechora Region: Nenetses, Russians of Ust'-Tsyl'ma and Izhma Komi]. In: Etnograficheskoe obozrenie 5 (2003), 54–67.

O nekotorykh malozatratnykh merakh po uluchsheniiu vzaimodeistviia mezhdu neftianymi kompaniiami i olenevodami [On some inexpensive measures for improving relations between oil companies and reindeer herders]. In: Mir korennykh narodov – Zhivaia Arktika 13 (2003), 101–105.

Olenevody Respubliki Komi i neftedobycha: tochki vzaimodeistviia i konflikta [Reindeer herders in the Komi Republic and oil extraction: points of interaction and conflict]. In: Mir korennykh narodov – Zhivaia Arktika 11–12 (2003), 100–106.

Living in Chum: social relations and personal behavioral strategies among Komi reindeer herders. In: Pro Ethnologia: Publications of the Estonian National Museum 10 (2000), 49–81.

Kolva Volost and the Kolva ethnographic group as an example of transition from settled to nomadic way of life. In: Pro Ethnologia: Publications of the Estonian National Museum 8 (1999), 19–34.

Dr. Florian Stammler (retired)

The Commoditisation of Reindeer Herding in Post Soviet Russia. Herders, Antlers and Traders in Yamal. In: Streck, B. (ed.): Segmentation und Komplementarität. Organisatorische, ökonomische und kulturelle Aspekte der Interaktion von Nomaden und Sesshaften. Mitteilungen des SFB "Differenz und Integration" 6, OWH 14 (2004), 105–122.

When Reindeer Nomads Meet the Market: Culture, Property and Globalisation at the End of the Land. PhD, MPI for Social Anthropology and University of Halle-Wittenberg. Halle/Saale 2004.

Überlebensstrategien im postsozialistschen Rußland: Das Beispiel der rentierzüchtenden Khanty und Nenzen in Nordwestsibirien. Köln 2003 (Kölner ethnologische Beiträge, Heft 6).

with Aimar Ventsel: Between Neoliberalism and Dirigisme. Approaches to reindeer herding in Yamal and Sakha. In: The Postsocialist Agrarian Question. Property relations and the Rural Condition, ed. by Chris Hann and the "Property Relations" Group, Münster 2003, 321–362. (Halle Studies in the Anthropology of Eurasia, vol. 1).

with Jens Abromeit: Der weite Weg. In: GEO Special Arktis-Antarktis, No. 1 February/March 2003, 110–119.

with Patty Gray: Siberia Caught between Collapse and Continuity. In: Max Planck research vol. 2 (2002), 54–61. english online version (pdf) · german online version (pdf)

Success at the edge of the land: Present and past challenges for reindeer herders of the West-Siberian Yamal-Nenets autonomous Okrug. In: Nomadic Peoples (NS) vol 6,2 (2002), 51–71.

Succes på jordens yderste rand: Eksisterende og tidligere udfordringer for renhyrderne i Vestsibirien Yamal-Nenets autonome okrug. In: Claus Oreskov Infonor (ed.): Tundraen og tajgaens folk. Kopenhagen 2002, 31–43.

with Tobias Haller, Annia Blöchlinger, Markus John, Esther Marthaler, Sabine Ziegler: West-Sibirien. In: T. Haller [et al] (eds.): Fossile Resourcen, Erdölkonzerne und indigene Völker. Infostudie 12, Giessen 2002, 151–208.