The cradle of fly-in/fly-out reindeer herding in Europe: greetings from Khongurei

In many works on reindeer herding Komi people are considered as innovators who made reindeer herding not only a way of life but a profitable economy. One innovation that they did in the small village of Khongurei (see my fieldwork blog Nenets Autonomous Okrug, European Russian North, turned out to be rather counter-productive in the end:

When the first Komi settlers arrived to establish the village, the reindeer herders of the Nenets Kolkhoz “Naryana Ty” (red reindeer) led a fully nomadic life with their families out in the tundra. Their children went to school in the Russian village of Kotkino and came home only for the school holidays in the summer.

View on the village of Khongurei from the River Pechora

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Posted in All, Fieldwork, Indigenous Peoples, oral history, Russian North, Theoretical Issues | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Murmansk region fieldwork oral history

Nina Meschtyb, postdoc research in our ORHELIA project, shares the following impressions from her fieldtrip

Privet from Murmansk region.
It is not very hot here – around 3-7 degree, but warm water was already
switched off at houses for the summer period.  I started my trip from Murmansk.
The bus arrived late in the
evening, so I stopped for couple of nights in Hostel “S-Terminal”. Meanwhile I
found that there is a place at the 4 beds resting house at the railway station. It
cost 600 rub., quite ok . It suited me perfectly, as far as railway station is
very much at the centre and just next to the bus station. Most
of my destinations have connections with bus, so I was well positioned.

Our elder friends, hosts, partners are at times in fragile health condition. We are extremely lucky to be able to talk to them while they feel well

This fieldtrip I decided to start from continuation of my connection with nice
peoples with whom I was acquainted during the trip in early March. So I went to
Olenegorsk.  In summer time people start an intensive migration – to summer
houses, relatives etc. When I went to Olenegorsk everybody was visiting
the cemetery – it was “Troitsa” church celebration, the day of the deceased. The
time to visit those who died.  Therefore, many talks connected with that…

“…my father was the last one who died in Kanevka village, after that soon
everybody moved to Loparskaja.  He asked to bury him here, why we didn’t
настояли na tom chtobi, that to bury him in Loparskaja?? Now we have to go
extra 3 km, to that old cemetery.
- You are lucky you have at least place where to go, the place where my parents
are buried are under the water…”
… The fieldwork for our orhelia’s topic in Murmansk region is special in that
way, that except for Lovosero saami population, and especial saami of old
generation are spread very much around the region 2 in Monchegorsk, 2 or so in
Teriberka, 2 in Verkhnetulomsky, 1 in Murmashi, 1 at Loparskaya end so on….So
one should be in very good connection to get knowing the names, addresses,
phone numbers.

The Sami in Russia have a long history of relocation all over the place, to settlements that do not look like indigenous villages at all

A Woman was from Teribirka invited me to join her to her trip to this village.
That would be nice to hear from her all the stories about surroundings; I think
it will be different from the talk in town’s apartments. BUT suddenly she gets
a cold and ear pain.  So I will wait with this trip now, and will try to
investigate what can find around.

Posted in All, Fieldwork, oral history, Russian North, Sámi

News on Arctic extractive Industries

Some news on extractive industries, indigenous people and impact studies in the Arctic have piled up recently, which I would like to share here. Most of these works are related to members of our Extractive Industries Working Group (EIWG) of IASSA, which you are welcome to join if you work on such issues.

Old Drill rigs in East Yamal, Sabetta, to be used in a new joint venture between Novatek, Gazprom and Total

1) Mark Nuttall announced a special volume of “The Polar Journal” with articles on extractive industries:              I guess the contributions by Mark Nuttall, Arthur Mason and Hannah Strauss are most relevant for our interest.

2) WWF Russia published a book critically looking at government support for oil and gas development. It claims to be a comprehensive analysis of subsidy for fossile fuels and highlights this approach as inadequate at times where humanity needs to search for alternative sources of energy. It also identifies three gaps that still inhibit Russia to go down that road: a governance gap, a knowledge and science gap, and a gap in the technical capacity for oil spill response.

3) If somebody is interested in a big wall-map of all oil and gas activities in the Arctic, this link provided by EIWG member Arthur Mason may be of interest: The Arctic Frontiers Oil & Gas Activity Map To 2017  Note that this is not related to the conference with the same name that is held annually in Tromso!
The second link that Arthur offered is a economic analysis, markets, technologies etc, called Offshore Arctic Oil and Gas Market Report To 2017

4) Arthur also shares the link to an unusually elaborate New York Times report on Shell’s plans to drill offshore Alaska in the Arctic Ocean – a plan that has a long history of indigenous and environmental opposition, but was backed recently by the Obama administration of the USA. I wonder if anybody with Alaska experience can share views on how this is discussed in Barrow or the North Slope Borough in general.

5) Has anybody information on the Extractive Industries Transparency initiative? It seems to be a major initiative, and it would be interesting to know which Arctic countries have subscribed to implement it.


Posted in All, Announcements, Extractive Industries, Indigenous Peoples, North American North

Kings, predators and research on the northern top of Europe

Greetings from Bugøyfjord and Varanger fjord. I am now in Bugoynes (Pykeijä -
fin.), in ‘pikku Suomi’ (little Finland). It is a fishing community with nearly
230 inhabitants. Almost everybody here speaks Finnish. The village is small,
but several activities are going on here. There are actively operating
factories (King crab farm, fish/reindeer meat processing factory); fishing
boats are coming and going; you can see reindeer, sheep and some tourists. In
the small local shop you can get an internet access, but it is veeery slow .

From the Arctic to Dubai: Farmed King Crab. photo: Anna Stammler-Gossmann

As a tourist you can relax in the Jäämeren sauna (‘ice sea’,- fin) and
afterward you can jump directly into the sea (apropos, the fjords are ice-free
all year around). ‘Arctic Bathing’ is a tourists’ highlight and a successful
idea of the local manager. As a researcher you are learning how differently
people may refer to the same sea water. I visited today some places in Bugøynes
and among them the King Crab farm. From this tiny village the crabs (alive!)
make a big journey to Dubai, China or Moscow.

Posted in All, Fennoscandia, Fieldwork

Travelling solo in the field isn’t being brave

Anna with a King CrabThe fieldwork is the most exciting part of our research. It is very challenging, everything is hard to plan, but it is adventurous, full of surprises, interesting meetings and conversations. For my field research on anthropology of seawater I meet, talk and listen, listen and talk to such a different people.Yesterday I was talking for 4 hours with one lady, who is also very active in the promoting of the idea of the railway Kirkenes-Rovaniemi.

Unexpectedly for me, I got today a chance to join two men for their private fishing trip outside of the fjords in the open ocean. I couldn’t miss this opportunity, even I was warned that it maybe quite shaky. However, I underestimated my abilities and four of nine hours on the tiny boat, I was struggling only with surviving, because I was completely seasick and I tried to stay on board because it was shaking really badly. I got some relief first after returning to the fjords and short break on one island. A huge cod (10 kg) and King Crab – is a result of this fishing trip. Not too much, but they were enormous!

My plan for tomorrow (04.06) does not fit to my previous ideas at all. I found a driver, who can bring me to the northernmost point of mainland Europe ((The North Cape is on Magerøya island) and to the northernmost fishing village in Norway and Europe, Gamvik (100 inhabitants, 71°2′28″N 27°51′5″E). Gamvik is located on the Nordkyn Peninsula, directly on the Arctic Ocean coast. I planned to go first to another village, but here, in the North you better have flexible ideas, but not a plan. Yesterday it was a snow storm in Gamvik area and the road was covered by snow. Should we change the summer tires?

Warm fjordal greetings Anna

Posted in All, Fennoscandia, Fieldwork | 1 Comment

Greetings from the Arctic Ocean coast

Greetings from the Arctic Ocean coast and Gunnarsfjorden, Sandfjord, Skitten fjord, Sör fjord, Ifjord and all these beautiful places around Nordkinn peninsula. In the museum guide in Gamvik you can read that according to medieval scholars, Finnmark was considered as Ultima Thule – the End of the World. Around 100 people, mainly pensioners are living in Gamvik, the northernmost place on the European mainland.
There are a small shop, fish factory, which was reopened three weeks ago, small and nice museum and one semi-wild fox as a local ‘celebrity’.
From my window I have a wonderful view on the Arctic Ocean. It was stormy, windy and quite cold for three days. Now the water is more peaceful, but the temperature does not go above +6 C. We are surrounded by water and I am learning about the meaning of Arctic seawater, its quality, fish/fishers/fishery and ‘oceanization’.

Posted in All, Fennoscandia, Fieldwork | 1 Comment

Ethnographic biography? What can oral history contribute?

I just read an interesting conference call for papers that centres on ethnography and biography, very much what we deal with in our oral history project work:

In the ORHELIA project, we are all confronted as anthropologists with the methodological challenge of doing a sort of data collection based on interviews, be they audio, video or taken notes from on the one side, and our aspiration to do proper anthropological fieldwork participating in our research partners’ lives on the other side.

Is what Hertzfeld calls ethnographic biography a way to marry these two methods of enquiry, and is this anthropology’s unique contribution to oral history as a field?

If this marriage is fruitful, then it would probably mean the overcoming of a tension between the individual and the social (or collective) as units of analysis. Because ethnography is about societies, whereas there could be nothing more individual than a biography, right? So obviously, this ethnographic biography would be about extrapolating and intrapolating between society and individual. Ethnographic biography should enable us to find out more about the influence of the individual on the practice, conscience and memory of the collective, and the influence of the collective to individual experience and biography.


How does Yambone Vengo’s biography matter for his grandchildren? Ethnographic biography might find out

Here is the call for proposals, if somebody is interested and can afford to go there:

Ethnography and Biography: the Practice and Product of Writing Lives
An Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference
Call for Papers

September 28-29, 2012 at the University of Colorado at Boulder
Deadline for paper abstract submission: June 15, 2012

Ethnography and Biography is a two-day interdisciplinary conference
organized by graduate students in the Department of Anthropology at the
University of Colorado, Boulder.

Ethnography and biography constitute distinct yet overlapping modes of
representation and analysis. Despite their differing emphases, however,
both share a concern with communicating lived experience by writing,
narrating, and representing lives. Across the social sciences and
humanities, scholars continue to look for new and better ways to write
about, understand, and situate the people they study within specific
social, historical, political, and economic contexts. At the same time,
these scholars seek to better understand and elucidate their own
intentions and positions. If, as Michael Herzfeld has argued, the
combination of these two genres as ‘ethnographic biography’ promises to
overcome the vexing and ultimately specious divide between individual,
socio-cultural and historical domains of experience, how might scholars
across diverse fields take advantage of this potential?

Following Herzfeld’s lead, this interdisciplinary conference seeks to
address such questions as: How do we as researchers and writers conceive
of and plot the relationships between the personal, interpersonal, and the
social? What are the ways in which the biographical/ethnographic mode
complicates our methods of narration and representation? In what
innovative or unfamiliar ways can the (auto)biographical portrait be put
to work? What might ethnographic biography or biographical ethnography
contribute to the task of writing lives under conditions of extreme
cruelty, duress, and suffering? What can these writing genres add to
discussions of the complex and intertwined dimensions of race, gender,
space and place, religious and political affiliations? How do ethnography
and biography engage with embodiment, sensory
experience, materiality, material remains, and the understanding of
societies past and present?

We invite submissions from across fields of research that explore any of
the issues above and the disciplinary forces that inform them, as well as
presentations of experimental writing and other media. We encourage
scholars to apply from disciplines such as anthropology, geography,
sociology, history, religious studies, comparative literature,
linguistics, and any other relevant intellectual studies.

The conference will be held Friday, September 28 and Saturday, September
29 and will include panels moderated by University of Colorado faculty.

We invite participants to send a 250 word abstract by Friday, June 15,
2012 to

For further information, please see the Ethnography Biography Conference
website, or
contact us as

Posted in All, oral history, Theoretical Issues