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Plural world interpretations and transdifference: Models of dominance and interaction in everyday practice of the West Tyvans in South Siberia

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Abstract

This article analyses the flexible way of handling plural models of world interpretation in West Tyvan daily practice. Based on fieldwork in the Republic of Tyva (Russian Federation) in 20042005, it is part of a research project that led to a dissertation submitted to Leipzig University in 2010. At least two models of world interpretation could be identified. Both exist as realities of equal value but can structurally be differentiated as "model of dominance" and "model of interaction." The first stresses "the human dominance over the environment, seen as a series of more or less passive objects of human agency," the second emphasizes the "interaction in a world enclosing humans and consisting of both human and non-human subjects." Both models are coherent systems and belong in equal degree to the repertoire of knowledge, behaviour and acting of West Tyvan agents. To them, these models count as equal and mutually contradictory. The models compete and oppose each other, but form a continuum within a single person to the effect that the human agent is constantly positioning itself, depending on situation and context. The empirical material demonstrates that West Tyvans use these models in various ways - replacing, complementing and mixing them according to their needs in specific contexts.

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