The Evenat the heart of his latest book, were originally nomadic reindeer herders, who lived on collective farms (kolkhozes) under the Soviets in Kamchatka. Before the collapse of the USSR, in 1989, an Even family decided to return to the forest, 400 km from any passable track in the Icha region, in eastern Kamchatka under Itchinsky Volcanoto recreate an independent way of life based on hunting, fishing and gathering.
This return to the basic way of life is a way for them to resist the order of extractivist and productivist predation in order to live their animism as coherently as possible. Ahead of the climate crisisthey posit ways of being in the world in relation to animals, plants and elements that can cause us to question ourselves about our modern world.
In the East of Dreamsthe anthropologist Nastassja Martin offers both passages of anthropological analysis, mixing references from researchers and writers, but also a collection of his discussions with some of these Even parties in the forest. And especially in Daria, whom he asked about dreams for a long time, about his life story, about his animist knowledge and skills. An exploration he made between 2014 and 2020.
By living beside them, by studying, by daily assimilating their own relations to life, to the living world as a whole, it enabled him to become more aware of the challenges of climate change, even beyond the realm of anthropological studies. collectives are truly at the forefront of extreme climate change: “What I experienced was a kind of extreme porosity in the way these people lived and thought. As an ethnologist, you have to remove the history, the culture, the prejudices from which you come to let it enter and understand this world of others, which implies a form of vulnerability that sometimes goes too far. In my case, I started dreaming the same way they dreamed. I myself have been inhabited by these dreams for several months“.
“It is urgent to cultivate other relationships in the world”
Reconnecting with all living beings through more natural practices: rethinking life
The points of work perspective on other relationships in the world, which can be more reflective to deal with the ecological crisis. It is also an opportunity to glimpse a new ontological transcendence, connecting ourselves with the elements and not just animals and plants. A meeting that questions the transfer of energy announced as savings according to the anthropologist: “The Evens, for example, have a completely different way of interacting with the creatures around them. For example, there is the idea that it is possible to communicate not only with animals, but also with entities such as rivers, fire, elements in general. Which refers to another way of thinking of ‘living’. This question of dialogue is indeed at the very center of their daily thinking, it resonates with them as obvious.“.
This is why Nastassja Martin tries to give voice to non-extractivist ways of being in the world. (based on the sole dogma of growth, the accumulation of wealth, through the acquisition of natural resources): “I don’t think a transition can take place without a profound change in our ways of being in the world upstream. These relationships with lives must be fully pluralized to question our own model of evolution, to re-evaluate our concept of modernity, we must change ourselves profoundly because otherwise, we will go straight to the wall. If we don’t make this multidimensional anthropological, philosophical, metaphysical work, I don’t really see how we’re going to get out of it. If everyone on their own can make an internal change in the way they relate to the world around them, that’s a big step. Through critical thinking, beautiful internal metamorphoses can be made, and we have capacities that allow us to project ourselves into other worlds.“.
▶︎ The rest is to listen…
- How did a small collective take over, abused, destroyed, enslaved by the inhabitants before being forgotten by the great story, the systemic crisis to regain autonomy?
- What ways of life have the Even reinvented to continue to exist in a world rapidly changing under the blows of extractivism and climate change?
With to talk about it
Nastassja Martinanthropologist, Arctic population specialist, author of “À
East of Dreams Even Responses to Systemic Crisis” (Editions la Découverte), of “
Wild Souls” (The Discovery) and of “
Believe in animals” (Vertical Editions)
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