Exploring the Construction of Space among Vakhtoviki Life of Commuters in the North-West-Siberian Oil and Gas Regions
Mag.a Gertrude Eilmsteiner-Saxinger (University of Vienna, Austria) [BIO]
My presentation will take the audience to the “Khanty-Mansisky-Autonomous Okrug” (KMAO) and the “Jamalo-Nenezky Autonomous Okrug” (JNAO) of the Russian Federation. “Vakhtoviki” is the Russian term for workers (man and women alike) commuting on the basis of 15 (or 30) work-days and 15 (or 30) days off. My dissertation focuses on Vakhtoviki in oil and gas industries in the Russian North and Far North. They travel several hundreds or thousands of kilometres to and from work. Their trips may take up to several days on trains or at least a day on airplane and other means of transport.
When listening to stories about Vahtoviki and Vahtoviki´s own narrations we can witness life realities which are characterised by three geographical places: Home – Journey – Shift. These three places and dimensions of Vahtoviki´s social space are the starting point of exploring how “space” is socially constructed. Geographical distance does not tell us about the social meaning of “distance”. In case of Vakhtoviki we can see that these three distant places are experienced simultanously. In different contexts geographical distance may emotionally vanish, distance might be experienced as hardly to overcome or distance creates an absolute mental separation of central aspects in personal life a.s.f.. Still, Home – Journey – Shift are remaining three central and simultanously functioning dimensions of Vakhtoviki´s social embedding and acting – their social space. One way to understand construction of space is to explore social meanings of terms used by commuters to denominate spatial points of reference – such as the following and the mentioned above.
During my presentation we travel through the worker´s “three-dimensional social space”. Our train-ride from “Zemlja” (the earth - Vakhtoviki´s term for everything outside the Siberian North) to “Vakhta“ (shift) in the North (“Sever”) should provide insights into lives of commuting Oil and Gas workers in Tundra and Taiga of North-West Siberia. The material was collected during a recent field-trip in summer and autumn 2007.