Rane Willerslev reviews Yukaghir notions of personhood in this excerpt from his book, Soul Hunters: Hunting, Animism, and Personhood Among the Siberian Yukaghirs. Yukaghir hunters have sophisticated knowledge of the behaviors of the many species of animals they interact with in northeastern Siberia which helps them characterize these beings along a continuum of personhood; humans being just one among many varieties of persons. These rich and varied conceptualizations ramify more basic ideas about animism, demonstrating how indigenous traditions can be labeled “animistic” as a useful generalization, though this rarely means the same thing across different societies.
Rane Willerslev discusses the world and worldview of Yukaghir hunters in this excerpt from a longer paper of the same title. Notions of what animals are and what people are–and can do in relation to other animals–differ significantly in this tradition compared to Western, Euro-American metaphysics.