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(P24) Epic and shamanic traditions among hunters and gatherers: contemporary transformations and new trends in analysis

Convenor: Dmitriy Funk, Moscow State University

Discussants: Valentina Kharitonova, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Moscow; Maria Stanyukovich, Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Saint Petersburg

Abstract: Reflections about social transformations that have substantially changed epic and shamanic traditions in communities of hunters and gatherers have so far been quite limited. This session aims to stimulate discussion of the mechanisms and prerequisites needed for the revitalisation, preservation, and transformation of these traditions and their place in today’s world.

Keywords: epic traditions, shamanism, intangible heritage, contemporary social and cultural transformations, research trends

Format: standard panel

Precirculated papers: to be decided

 

The humanities and social sciences consider the phenomenon of traditions in a broad and not always unambiguous way. Epic and shamanic traditions of hunters and gatherers which we propose to approach as closely related phenomena are no exception here. The social transformations that took place in the twentieth century, including in a number of Eurasia’s socialist states, resulted in significant changes in and often extinction of both shamanism and epic storytelling. Globalisation, urbanisation, inclusion of some epic and shamanic traditions in the category “intangible heritage” by UNESCO and that of “living treasure of shamanism” by the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, organisation of schools teaching shamanism and epic traditions, elections of "supreme shamans"—these are just a few of the factors that significantly influence the forms of the traditions in question and their functions in the world today.

This session aims to stimulate a discussion of mechanisms and prerequisites needed for the revitalisation, preservation, and transformation of of epic and shamanic traditions and their place in today’s world, but also to contribute to the adoption of a wider research perspective in studying these phenomena.

Possible questions include:

  • Can an indigenous epic / shamanic tradition become a commercial initiative? How does this tradition transform in such a case?
  • How and under what circumstances do the living traditions that drew the attention of UNESCO or other foundations/organisations exist now?
  • Can epic and shamanic traditions play an active role in the transformation of modern urban communities of former hunters and gatherers?
  • How open are epic and shamanic traditions to other cultural influences? Are there any boundaries beyond which these phenomena cease to be seen as such by indigenous communities?
  • Is interdisciplinary research into epic and shamanic tradition possible today?

 

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