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Narrating the Future in Siberia: Childhood, Adolescence and Autobiography among the Eveny

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Narrating the Future in Siberia

Childhood, Adolescence and Autobiography among the Eveny

Olga Ulturgasheva

210 pages, 9 illus. & tables, 1 map, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-766-0 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (September 2012)

eISBN 978-0-85745-767-7 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


This thought-provoking and highly original work, relevant especially for students of the anthropology of childhood, supplies an important new chapter to native Siberian ethnography. Highly recommended for anyone seriously interested in today's Siberia, all levels.·  Choice

“This ethnography of young people’s heroic efforts to bring into being a different future marks an important contribution not only to the anthropology of this region, but also to the anthropology of postsocialism. Without doubt, the book will become a widely read ethnography in both of these fields of specialization, but it should also be read as an important addition to the growing body of work on the anthropology of childhood and youth.”  ·  The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“This book is remarkable because of the detailed knowledge of the milieu the author examines (it is her native village), but equally because of the originality of the chosen themes: on the one hand, that of childhood in Siberia, a subject only rarely dealt with; on the other, that of the future which goes against the tendency of anthropologists to study the present in the light of the past.”  ·  L’Homme

“…an original and thought-provoking study [that is]firmly situated in the relevant Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet ethnographic and historical literature… It also makes excellent use of the extensive Russian ethnographic work in this region.”  ·  Julie Cruikshank, University of British Columbia

“…a very good study, compellingly and confidently written, which covered a relatively unknown subject…The ethnography of this book is excellent.”  ·  Heather Montgomery, The Open University, UK


The wider cultural universe of contemporary Eveny is a specific and revealing subset of post-Soviet society. From an anthropological perspective, the author seeks to reveal not only the Eveny cultural universe but also the universe of the children and adolescents within this universe. The first full-length ethnographic study among the adolescence of Siberian indigenous peoples, it presents the young people’s narratives about their own future and shows how they form constructs of time, space, agency and personhood through the process of growing up and experiencing their social world. The study brings a new perspective to the anthropology of childhood and uncovers a quite unexpected dynamic in narrating and foreshadowing the future while relating it to cultural patterns of prediction and fulfillment in nomadic cosmology.

Olga Ulturgasheva is Research Fellow in Social Anthropology at the Scott Polar Research Institute and Clare Hall, University of Cambridge. She has carried out fieldwork for a decade in Siberia on childhood, youth, religion, reindeer herding and hunting and coedited Animism in Rainforest and Tundra: Personhood, Animals, Plants and Things in Contemporary Amazonia and Siberia (Berghahn Books 2012).

Subject: Anthropology (General) Sociology
Area: Asia-Pacific Northern Europe




  • Narrating the future
  • My own return
  • The Eveny and the village of Topolinoye
  • Previous literature on the Eveny and other indigenous communities of Siberia
  • Summary of the book

Chapter 1. Future autobiographies and their spaces

  • Research in the field: introducing case studies
  • Contact for case studies and sampling
  • Gender and kinship
  • Age cohorts
  • Oral and written
  • Narrative and ‘future autobiography’

Chapter 2. Eveny childhood and adolescence

  • Djuluchen: the composition of child and adolescent personhood
  • Childhood and narrative
  • Coming of age

Chapter 3. Forest and village

  • Forest and village in local cosmologies of movement
  • The social world of the forest
  • The village: social context today
  • Complexities of engagement with antagonistic spaces

Chapter 4. Three future autobiographies

  • The story of Tonya, a forest girl
  • The stories of village adolescents: Vera and Grisha
  • Vera
  • Grisha

Chapter 5. Reindeer and child in the forest chronotope

  • Reindeer as a nonhuman component of child personhood
  • Reindeer as child: Tonya on learning and teaching
  • The forest chronotope in narrative

Chapter 6. The village as domain of unhappiness: broken families and the curse of the GULAG

  • Wandering spirits of the dead and the curse of the GULAG
  • Unhappy families: children’s futures and parents’ pasts

Chapter 7. Cosmologies of the future in the shadow of djuluchen

  • Personhood: hero and shaman
  • Time: cycles with and without destination
  • ‘Future autobiography’ as an activator of djuluchen



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