Selcen Küçüküstel, “Embracing Landscape: Living with Reindeer and Hunting among Spirits in South Siberia” (Berghahn, 2021)

Examining human-animal relations among the reindeer hunting and herding Dukha community in northern Mongolia, Embracing Landscape: Living with Reindeer and Hunting among Spirits in South Siberia (Berghahn Books, 2021), focuses on concepts of domestication and wildness from an indigenous perspective. Examining subsistence methods and lifestyle practices like hunting rituals and herding techniques in detail, Selcen Küçüküstel’s ethnographic account of contemporary lifeways and belief systems among the Dukha illuminates the dynamics between people, domesticated reindeer, and wild animals. Her research centers the role of the landscape in mediating and shaping human-animal interactions and encounters, capturing how the Dukha experience the landscape of the taiga as both their ancestral home and as a place with its own more-than-human agency. In this episode, we discuss the history of the Dukha, practices of pastoralism and hunting in northern Mongolia, the effects of contemporary political and environmental change on the Dukha, and Selcen’s methodological approach to her research as both a journalist and anthropologist.

Maggie Freeman is a PhD student in the School of Architecture at MIT. She researches uses of architecture by nomadic peoples and historical interactions of nomads and empires, with a focus on the modern Middle East.

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