«The way toward oneself»: ethnoscience as a new identity strategy for the Ob Ugrians  

Pivneva E.A. (Moscow, Russian Federation)


              page 184190


This paper investigates the role of science in the identity strategies of the Ob-Ugrians (Khanty and Mansi). The main source for the study comprised author’s field reports collected over the years in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug Yugra. As the reference point of the analysis we chose the Ob-Ugric Institute of Applied Research and Development, where a polling of Ob-Ugric science professionals was held in 2018. The author suggests exploring the research topic through the concept of multifaceted identity. A complex system of individual self-identification implies the presence of its different forms, including professional and ethnic, amongst others. This approach leads to the conclusion on superimposing roles of a scientist and a member of the ethnic group (professional and ethnic identities) in the scientific activities of the Ob-Ugrians. To indicate this specificity, we suggest using the term ‘ethnoscience’. The latter is defined in this context as an entity emerged in a specific way, spatially localized and aimed at studying the autochthonous foundations of knowledge within its ethnic community. As a methodological approach, the concept of ‘cultural trauma’ has been employed. Within this theory, scientific activities of the northerners are considered as a manifestation of ‘coping’ with the trauma. The example of Ob-Ugrians shows that ethnic science professionals are often driven by the perception of practical relevancy of such activities ‘for the sake of saving the nationality and its culture and raising its prestige’. These phenomena can be regarded as a kind of protest action aimed to compensate real and perceived slights. Nowadays, research activities of the Ob-Ugrians are focused on recovery of the ‘lost knowledge’ and its application in the modern context. The search for the ‘roots’ and ethnic self-identification is carried out through ‘revival’ and ‘restoration’. As a drawback of this strategy, some weak points evince (‘sympathetic ethnography’) which steadily diminish as the northern ethnoscience continues to integrate in a wider science context.

Key words: Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug Yugra, Ob-Ugric Institute of Applied Research and Development, Ob Ugrians (Khanty and Mansi), ethnoscience, scientific and ethnic identity, cultural trauma, ethnic revival.


Funding. The work was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (project No. 18-05-60040 «New technologies and social institutions of the indigenous population of the Russian Arctic: opportunities and risks»).


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accepted: 29.05.2020

Article is published: 28.08.2020


Pivneva E.A.

Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the RAS, Leninsky prosp., 32À, Moscow, 119991, Russian Federation