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‘You see that cow? That’s a television…’ Village Survival and the Information Environment

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In the situation of economic collapse in the 1990s, the people of Tory in Buryatia have turned to the household economy. This economic turning inwards is accompanied by a disturbing change in the information environment of the village. Literate media (books, newspapers, writing) are hardly used, which can be attributed to several factors, one of which is the fact that the Buryat villagers speak a radically different dialect from literary Buryat, which has to be taught to them like a foreign language. Oral modes of communication, on the other hand, are strong, both in Russian and Buryat. TV and video have become such an essential part of life that the items of wealth of the domestic economy are directly counted in terms of what they will buy (‘You see that cow, that’s a TV…’’). This means that villagers are well acquainted with Californian serials and Moscow news but ignorant of events happening in Buryatia. Meanwhile, ’conversation‘, the prime oral form, is put to work, for it is by this means that familial and neighbourhood networks are maintained in working order as resources for survival and sociality.


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