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Antler on the Sea

Anna M. Kerttula, an anthropologist, offers a vivid portrayal of life in Sireniki, a Siberian village on the Bering Sea. Once a traditional Yup'ik community, it was by the final years of the Soviet Empire home to three cultural groups: the Yup'ik, native hunters of sea mammals; the Chukchi, nomadic reindeer herders who had been required by the state to turn their animals over to cooperative farms; and Russians of European ancestry enticed to the region by incentive programs designed to colonize the Russian Far East. Kerttula, who lived among the villagers for eighteen months, draws on her experiences to explore how each group's beliefs and customs have transformed those of the other two. Her book shows the endurance of the indigenous cultures of Far Eastern Russia despite years of intrusion by the Soviet state.The author describes in rich detail how the Yup'ik, the Chukchi, and the Russian "newcomers" developed a sense of cultural difference because of their separate symbolic systems and yet cohered as a community. She explains that relations among the groups have become tenuous since the breakup of the Soviet Union and the subsequent collapse of the local economy. Kerttula's research provides a unique perspective on today's ethnic rivalries within the former USSR. She maintains that these conflicts, not always expressions of ancient animosities, may be efforts toward mutual understanding during times of economic and social change.
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"Kerttula here describes Sireniki, a small village of a little under 1000 inhabitants on the Chukchi Peninsula in Siberia... This fascinating and insightful study is highly recommended for academic libraries."-Bert Beynen, Des Moines Area Community College. Library Journal, December 2000. "Kerttula illuminates the interplay of Chukchi reindeer herders, Yup'ik sea mammal hunters, and European 'Newcomer' life in... a Soviet-imposed village at the margin of tundra and sea... Kerttula's ethnography of contemporary issues speaks with two voices. The ethnographic-descriptive voice details villagers and their lives... The conceptual-theoretical voice focuses primarily on sophisticated multilayered analyses of how each of the three groups manuevered... to establish a sense of self and otherness, and to establish group and social space."-Choice, June 2001, Vol. 38, No. 10 "Anna M. Kerttula offers a vivid portrayal of life in Sireniki."-Cultural Survival Quarterly, Spring 2001 "The text is admirably clear and free of jargon. It includes quotes from both her field notes and her diary, covering a wide range of subjects from weddings to story-telling to tattoos to alcohol consumption, from spousal abuse to friendship, housing, dreams, special cousin relationships, hygiene, retirement and gender division of labor... A thoughtful book."-Ann Chandonnet, Juneau Empire, July 15, 2001 "This is a slim volume written in straightforward prose accessible to undergraduates and a lay audience. It is peppered with poignant bits from the author's diary (1989-1991) explaining details such as why a young Chukchi woman was wearing house slippers while riding on an all-terrain vehicle carrying supplies to reindeer brigades:'Why not? Isn't the tundra my home?'...For those traveling to Chukotka as tourists or for business or humanitarian purposes, Antler on the Sea provides rare insight into the people and economy of the region."-Gail Osherenko, Dartmouth College, Slavic Review, Vol. 61 No. 3, Fall 2002 "The book provides fascinating insights into social and cultural dynamics in changing political contexts among three different ethinic groups-the Yup'ik, Chukchi, and newcomers of Russianor other European origin-which had, during the Soviet times, been forced to live together in the coastcal village of Sireniki in Chukotka... The book is important and unique in various ways."-Erich Kasten, Anthropos 98.2003 "Antler on the Sea is a fascinating, important, and near-unique study of a threatened culture."-Colin Thubron, author of In Siberia "Anna Kerttula's research has produced an unusually rich reading of a little studied part of the world. Kerttula depicts a pluralist community, creole from its inception, that reminds us of the ever blurring-and ever politically reconstructed-lines of ethnic and social difference."-Bruce Grant, Swarthmore College "This much anticipated book skillfully combines a rich community study with an ethnohistoric treatment of life in a Soviet village during the crucial years 1989-1991. Antler on the Sea provides fascinating material on the everyday strategies that Chukchi, Yup'ik, and Newcomers have employed in constructing otherness within an arena of contested and shifting symbolic values."-Peter P. Schweitzer, University of Alaska Fairbanks

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