Gender Distinctions in an Egalitarian Society: The Case of Evenki People of the Baikal Region

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Tatiana Safonova
István Sántha


In this article we present the case of the Evenki people, Siberian hunter-gatherers that share some traits of egalitarianism with other hunter-gathering people of the world. Using the cybernetic approach, proposed by Gregory Bateson in social anthropology, we describe the circular logic of interaction between genders and study the strategies that Evenki use to solve contradictions between personal autonomy (manakan) and dependencies associated with inter-gender relationships. The scope of our interest covers such situations as flirting, conjugal unit establishment, promotion of business contacts with strangers (andaki relationships), everyday violence and aggression, as well as ecstatic states. The presented analysis of the episodes of interaction in everyday life shows that Evenki social organization is based on a situational approach to the distinction of genders. The research is based on several fieldworks conducted in the Baikal region (Russia), but the core materials relate to a two-month stay with one Evenki community in spring 2006.


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Author Biographies

Tatiana Safonova

Centre for Independent Social Research, St. Petersburg, Russia

István Sántha

Institute of Ethnology, Department of Social Anthropology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary