The paper examines interactions of oil companies and reindeer herders in the tundra of the Russian Arctic. We focus on governance arrangements that have an impact on the sustainability of oil production and reindeer herding. We analyze a shift in benefit-sharing arrangements between oil companies and Indigenous Nenets reindeer herders in Nenets Autonomous Okrug (NAO), Russia, as an evolution of the herders’ rights, defined as the intertwined co-production of legal processes, ideologies, and power relations. Semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and document analysis demonstrate that in NAO, benefit-sharing shifted from paternalism (dependent on herders’ negotiation skills) to company-centered social responsibility (formalized compensation rules). This shift was enabled by the adoption of a formal methodology for calculating income lost due to extractive projects and facilitated by the regional government’s efforts to develop reindeer-herding. While laws per se did not change, herders’ ability to access compensation and markets increased. This paper shows that even when ideologies of indigeneity are not influential, the use of existing laws and convergence of the government’s and Indigenous groups’ economic interests may shift legal processes and power relations toward greater rights for Indigenous groups.
- Corporate social responsibility
- Indigenous reindeer herders’ rights
- Triple-helix model: power-law-indigeneity