Wandering in Other Worlds
I am Evenki. The preservation of my culture and heritage as an Evenki person is the central driving purpose of my life and work, my source of happiness, pride, connection and identity.
Being of a minority indigenous people of the Russian Federation, we, the Evenki people, present a unique ethnic group that has managed to preserve an authentic connection to our ancestors, our lands and our traditions, despite many years of endured ethnic cleansing: the richness of our cultural tradition, our language, and our cosmology is a gift whose value is only being realised today. Colonial logics and patterns of thinking have historically dismissed Evenki (and other indigenous) knowledges as inconsequential to a universal understanding of the world. Through this fellowship, I hope to work with the PRM and the University of Oxford to reverse some of these logics, so we can work together going forwards, exploring solutions to our common problems and what a research of the future (one that involves all ethnic minority scholarships) will look like.
For us, the Evenki people, the most important work is that of protecting cultural traditions and practices that embody our stories, cosmologies, and these material and cultural practices in physical form. This is of true value to our culture, not as treasures and items of history but as carriers of Evenki practice into the present. Therefore, a project in which I can introduce my people to audiences who have not encountered our culture before, and tell a truthful story of our perseverance, knowledge and ingenuity in changing times, is an important opportunity not only for me: it is an opportunity for us all, as Evenki, to tell our story that will not be mediated for us to skew our achievements and endurance. In taking this fellowship, I experience less a personal opportunity, than a communal responsibility to use this chance to advance the knowledge of my people. This is very important to us. Projects that aim to preserve and develop native cultural heritage present an important milestone for all of us, for our collective history.
My own work centres on the study of indigenous cultures and how this study affects us on an individual level, what in Russian is referred to as ethnopsychology. For me as a researcher, it is important to encounter the objects that carry the material traditions of our people (some of which are, unfortunately hard to find back at home), and most importantly to share what I know about them – to show that they are alive, and that they give to their viewers the ever-living story of our peoples. I have been empowered by our council of elders as a cultural carrier of Evenki tradition, to study and work with these objects. It is a great joy for us to teach about our traditions, which have such strong effects on human psychology (whether Evenki or not), allowing those who experience them to feel again their connection to the living spirit, the living planet, to feel themselves alive.