Siberian Soundscape

I am thinking about soundscape of my Siberian village, what it’s like, what marks it. Cows mooing, cats meowing, dogs barking, roosters coo-ca-re-cooing (this is how roosters’ cry is transcribed in this part of the world). A noise of occasional car or a motorcycle. I was thinking about problematizing “submergence” the way Helmreich problematizes “immersion” in his article (Helmreich, 2007). Before the village of Anosovo was built, several smaller villages were submerged by water. By going to the field, quite analogously to Helmreich immersion, I am going to submerge myself in life there. Submergence is also the falling deeper down in layering of time, as opposed to resurfacing. Anosovo might be called to be submerging into oblivion, nothingness, dissolving, dissipating. Falling behind, backwards, as the world goes into supposed future. Concurrently, it is very possible that Anosovo is eternal. Some zaimka – small settlement, perhaps no more than several houses – existed on these lands long before Soviet industrialization. The historic epochs could roll, eclipsing each other, somewhere there, far far away, in cities, in Moscow, in Saint Petersburg, in Paris, in Berlin, in New York, in Tokyo, but this secret, secluded, unexposed place would proceed with its quiet existence in its own enclosure.

Thinking through what Kohn calls “transspecies ecology of selves” (Kohn, 2007, 7), I strive to further understand the complexity of the interactions between humans and dogs in the village of Anosovo. The whole task of the anthropology of life, which Kohn formulates as “An anthropology of life questions the privileged ontological status of humans as knowers.” (Kohn, 2007, 6), seems to be noble enough to try to engage with, yet at the same time presents the conundrum akin the philosophical conundrum: “How can I think about something objectively, if in doing so I could never leave the limits of my own thinking process?” The anthropology of life’s task is impossible to complete from the human point of view because we never cease to be humans, and in challenging our status of knowers we never cease to be knowers who challenge their own status. When the anthropology of life could be written truly from the position of the animal or robotic agency, in that it would be truly the anthropology of the anthropos, preserving the initial disposition of the discipline, that of the gazer, who does not belong to the community, observing the community. Kohn notes that the Runa see dogs as having souls, since the subjectivity is constructed for them through the contact with other beings, humans and otherwise (Kohn, 2007).

“Through a process that Brian Hare and colleagues (2002) call “phylogenetic enculturation,” dogs have penetrated human social worlds to such an extent that they exceed even chimpanzees in understanding human communication.” (Kohn, 2007, 9). While largely it seems as if humans and dogs ignore each other in day-to-day interactions, nevertheless they depend on each other. Same holds true in regard to the Siberian village. There are understandings what constitutes a good dog and what does not. The politics of giving names to dogs, interactions, and other details, are to be defined once I am there. The Siberian village seems to be ideal place for attentive attunements to what Kohn calls “transspecies ecology of selves” (Kohn, 2007, 7), where gatherers, hunters, fishers, domesticated and wild animals, birds, insects, plants, and mushrooms form multispecies community.

References

Helmreich, Stefan. “An anthropologist underwater: Immersive soundscapes, submarine cyborgs, and transductive ethnography.” American Ethnologist, Vol. 34, No. 4, pp. 621–641. 2007

Kohn, Eduardo. “How dogs dream: Amazonian natures and the politics of transspecies engagement.” American Ethnologist, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 3–24, 2007

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