The lecture in Riitti soikoon!-event asks what we can learn from people’s relationships with animals in Inner Asia. It considers both people’s working relationships with their animals and their understanding of the nature of being of animals.
Inner Asian peoples such as Kyrgyz and Mongolians both herd animals and also hunt them. In their working lives, people have to manage and communicate with their animals, but as hunters and also custodians of mountain and steppe, they have a particular understanding of what animals are and how they are related to people, not just as potential food or work helpers, but as important and equally significant inhabitants of their environment and their world. How people treat animals can impact upon human destinies, and so such understandings affect how people behave and their cultural practices. This extends to their poetics and their visual art.
The lecture considers all these aspects of Inner Asian human-animal relations from the simple practicalities of communicating with herd animals, to how these animals are incorporated into understandings of kin, to their influence on patterns in felt textiles and the role of animals in Inner Asian cosmologies.
Biography: Dr. Stephanie Bunn is a Senior Lecturer in the Social Anthropology of Eurasia and Material Culture at the University of St Andrews. She is curator of the University’s Ethnographic and Amerindian collections. Her background is in the arts, having worked as a sculptor before turning to anthropology. She has been carrying out research into Central Asian human animal relations and nomadic felt textiles since 1989, and also has research interests in learning, skill, and space and perception. She has conducted field research among high mountain pastoralists in Kyrgyzstan between 1994 and 1997, and again in 2002, 2003 and 2011.
Stephanie has made collections of felt textiles for the British Museum, the Horniman Museum, and the National Museum of Scotland. She collected and curated the British Museum exhibition Striking Tents and the Collins Gallery exhibition From Quilts to Couture. Her recent book, Nomadic Felts, published by the British Museum Press, covers the legacy of nomadic felt-making from Eastern Europe across Central Asia as far east as Japan. She is currently writing a volume on Kyrgyz felt textiles and human-environment relations, and is doing new research into Scottish vernacular basketry.