• Cultural activity and market enterprise: a circumpolar comparison of reindeer herding communities at the end of the 20th century

      Koskey, Michael Stephen (2003-12)
      Reindeer herding throughout the circumpolar North is in decline. Investigating this decline, this dissertation takes a comparative approach with a focus on four case studies: the Chukchi of Chukotskii Peninsula, the Iñupiat of the Seward Peninsula, the Saami of the Kola Peninsula, and the Saami of Finnmark. Because various rates and types of decline are occurring in these different cases, a comparative method leads to a systematic analysis of how patterns develop in the practice of contemporary reindeer herding, both locally and globally. Comparing and contrasting the trajectories of declines in reindeer herding identifies and explains the dimensions of specific local-global processes, and situates them in wider contexts. These dimensions include economic incompatibilities, ecological stresses, and power inequities. By focusing on changes in reindeer herding over the last decade, this study reveals the effects of the incorporation of reindeer herding into the global economy, which is heavily dependent on existing infrastructure. This study also demonstrates the social position of reindeer herders and the cultural meaning of reindeer herding to the herders themselves. The willingness of regional and national governments to subsidize herding, and to ensure its survival through consistent access to pastures, is critically important to the success of reindeer herding as a productive agricultural enterprise. Furthermore, changing ecological factors potentially threaten reindeer herding as a subsistence activity. The consequences of decline, then, are explained through the identification of decline-inducing factors, such as ecological change, political vagaries, and the inappropriateness of reindeer herding as a capital-based enterprise under existing conditions of market and transportation infrastructural development.