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Pastoral Perspectivism: A View from Altai

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One of the characteristic aspects ofViveiros de Castro’s perspectivismis the relative rather than absolute character of subject/object positions. In the Altaian context, animals are not attributed with subjectivity in the way found in Amazonian cosmologies. Still, the subject position is not particular to humans: the landscape is populated by masters of a both human and nonhuman kind. The terminological division of animals into wild (a?dar-kushtar) and domesticated (mal) in Altaian language is analogical to the human/animal division in Amazonia. Wildness and domesticity thus become relative categories defined with reference to the idiom of the master. What is wild for a human master is domesticated for a nonhumanmaster. Here, the common denominator is a sort of ‘livestock-morphism’:what for the human hunters looks like a deer is a cowfrom the point of view of the forest masters. If conducted improperly, hunting is thus analogous to livestock theft – morality transcends perspectivism in Altai. Exploring this ‘pastoralist perspectivism’ leads to questions about subjectivity and agency, ethics and ownership. The discussion is finally placed ‘into perspective’ by showing thatAltaians do not operate with a single idea of the animal and human–animal relationship.


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