ORHELIA message from the field in Yamal, April 2011

Florian (I)  is currently with colleague Roza Laptander doing fieldwork in Yamal for a project called ORHELIA.  The acronym ORHELIA stand for “Oral Histories of Elders in the Arctic” and is a project that looks at how remote northerners have experienced the historical and cultural changes of the 20th century in their own biographies.
I was planning to give you some more regular updates from the field, but the conditions turned out to be so hard this time that there wasn’t even time to THINK about anything close to blogs or the like.

It is hard to imagine that you are somewhere in an Arctic snow desert where the closest mobile connection is 150 km away, the closest satellite phone that could call a helicopter around `100 km away, let alone any internet. And you live completely without electricity, which makes it impossible to record field interviews, shoot videos or the like. You save the last battery power for some photographs, which is what I did.

Tyude Okotetto and his daughter, with Florian and colleague Roza Laptander.

It’s at about 72.5 degrees northern latitude and 72 degrees eastern longitude, and other than Finnmark has a much harsher climate. We had  -20 most of the time, but around April 18 a sudden warming up, reaching above the freezing point, making the snow wet. During this warming time, we were blessed with a classical snowstorm that made it impossible to find the next family. Searching around by snowmobile under such conditions is a pretty silly undertaking, given that petrol is REALLY limited. Not only is it expensive (same price as in Finland), but also is the next place to get it officially is around 250 km south. Try to sit on a wooden sledge at a speed of 50 and jump for 2 metres over a hump. Your spine bones will have contracted all into one. To prevent this from happening, you better spread the shock to a broader base by lying in the sledge. But then you are in danger of hitting your head on to the sledge – which is what happened to me too many times.

Florian and Yakov Vanuito

As soon as it clears up next morning we hit the tundra (of course not the road, because there is none), and have another 120 km to Se Yakha, the village from where the helicopter flies to the district capital.
PS: From Se Yakha: Two injections, blood pressure reducing pills and some hours quiet lying down in the village hospital helped a bit to be prepared for the helicopter flight.

Internship feedback by Natalia Bochkareva, 23.2-8.4.2011

The reason why I decided to write the feedback on my internship period is not just gratitude to all people who contributed to my successful work and research, but it is meant also so that other students could experience the great internship period as I did. During our studies at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Master program “Arctic Studies”,  when the period of internship came,  all of us students, from Siberia, Greenland, France and Armenia faced the problem of choosing where we could do our internship. Following the advices of a friend of mine from Germany, Anna-Maria Manz who did the internship at the Anthropology Research Team of Arctic Centre last year and from whom I got very good feedback, and also from Minna Nousiainen, International Officer of Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lapland, to do internship in the Anthropology Research Team, I couldn’t miss this chance…

For tourists Rovaniemi is mostly the city of Joulupukki – (Santa Claus) and Napapiiri – (Arctic Circle) – as for me Rovaniemi is the city of the Arctic Centre. I really like this ‘international’ place, as tourists can visit high-interactive museum about Arctic in general, try cold weather in the ice room and see the northern lights etc, or visit another museum dedicated to Rovaniemi town history. Then, on the ground floor,  there is the library… which is incredible! I really enjoyed this library where you can find so many books about Arctic! I found so many books even in my mother tongue: Sakha language! I wished I had this kind of library in Yakutsk. It’s absolutely amazing high-resource place for researchers and place of nice, kind and ‘always ready to help you’ librarians! For my work and research you helped me lot, thank you!

In my first day, 23rd of February, right after the talk with Florian Stammler about my research work and internship, we went to have coffee; it was 14:00 p.m. second floor, big table and a lot of serious faces around it. I don’t remember now who was there and what I was telling about as I was so worried and afraid of saying something wrong in front of all these scientists… But a few minutes after you could feel the relaxed friendly people around you and there I realized that coffee break for them is not just drinking coffee but also communicating and chatting time. Then day by day you meet new people and new interesting stories what they study and work on.

The work I have been mostly doing was connected with literature search, research organization, data collection, publication preparation. During this work one learns about so many interesting things and facts. I am sure I got to know so many new things and new practical experience which will be absolutely useful for my own research! Internship in Rovaniemi was not just working, but also great outdoor activities – cross-country skiing on the river and lunch breaks in the laavu, grilling sausages thanks to Martina Schäfer, a postdoctoral researcher who also lent me her skis;  thanks to Karolina Paquin- intern and Adam Stepien- PhD student at the ARKTIS doctoral programme who were patient enough to take me to ski and wait for me due to my ‘speed’ of skiing.

Cross-county skiing on the river, Rovaniemi

One can easily take courses at the University of Rovaniemi – I thank a lot Dr. Elina Helander-Renvall for her lecture about TEK (Traditional Ecological knowledge) and for her materials that will be very helpful for my research. I thank Minna Nousiainen, Academic Coordinator at International Studies Centre (ISC), Faculty of Social Sciences, for her contribution and support before the internship and during studies at the University of Lapland.

Being inspired by the anthropologists of the Arctic Centre and by the work they do I decided to make my own short field trip in Kautokeino, Norway, and Kuttura, Finland. In Norway I experienced for the first time in my life the tundra area. Thanks to Adam Stepien, I became acquainted with the PhD and Master school “People in changing world” provided by UArctic Thematic Network on Global Change in the Arctic. The school allowed us to visit the Sametinget (Sámi Parliament) seminar on traditional knowledge for the formal opening of UArctic EALAT Institution where reindeer herders from different regions of Russia and Fennoscandia come together. Scientists, professors, students, politicians and herders from different institutions and organizations – all gathered together to talk about on different aspects of traditional knowledge and resources utilization in the changing society of the Arctic and about the challenges of reindeer herding. I thank a lot Riitta Aikio, Administrative Secretary of University of the Arctic for the great help! Without your help I wouldn’t have been able to get to Kautokeino!

Laavu, Kautokeino, Norway

After a week full of rich events and talks with scientists and herders I continued my trip to the small village of Kuttura, Finland, where I visited one of the researchers of Anthropology Research Team – Terhi Vuojala-Magga. Every day from this trip will be kept in my mind as fresh as if it had happened just yesterday. Kuttura – the place where you open the door and you see reindeer a few meters away. In Kuttura I had a taste of the reindeer herding life. Somehow all the time I was feeling as if I came to my house and met with my relatives. I have not ever known the researcher and her husband at all before but at the same time it seemed that I had known them fro a long time. Thank you a lot, Terhi and Mauno for the days spent in Kuttura and for my first field trip.

Ice-fishing on the Ivalo river, Kuttura, Finland

I am so happy that I have done this field trip, I like to say it in that way (‘field trip’ and not just visits) because the initial purpose to go there was to do interviews from reindeer herders and as wel as from scientists, researchers, leaders of the projects “EALAT” and of “Reindeer Forage and Supplementary Feeding on changing climate”. The reason is because I am writing my master thesis about issues related to the cooperation of reindeer herders and scientists in climate change projects. I thank all the reindeer herders, leaders, scientists who spent their time for answering for my questions!

My internship period came to an end with the Annual Arktis Seminar “Local Knowledge and Participatory Research in the Arctic” where we had the opportunity to listen to keynote lectures by famous scientists in the field of traditional knowledge and PhD student’s presentations. Thank you Paivi Soppela and Elina Helander-Renvall for inviting me to attend the various events of the seminar!

Now almost one week passed since my last day of internship and I feel a bit sorry that time passed so fast. On the other hand I feel proud that I did my internship at the Arctic Centre,  for so many opportunities and experiences. I thank all scientists of the Arctic Centre for giving interviews, Raija Kivilahti and Jenni Lintula for inviting me to give a presentation about my home village and Master program at the ‘Tuesday Afternoon Coffee Chat’, and for inviting me to attend other events and listen to presentations!

Thank you a lot to Anthropology Research Team: Florian Stammler – the supervisor of my Master thesis and Coordinator of the internship, Anna Stammler-Gossman, Terhi-Vuojala Magga and Nuccio Mazzullo, for the days spent in your team, sharing with me your great experience, for the interesting talks, the valuable advices and the great support! Hope to see all of you soon!

Anthropology Research Team, Arctic Centre, Rovaniemi

Bochkareva Natalia,

Student of Master Program “Arctic Studies” at University Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France.

Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 10pm in Thule room, presentation of Jodie Asselin, from University of Alberta

We would like to invite you to a presentation by Jodie Asselin (University of Alberta, Canada) that will take place on Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 10pm in Thule room. Jodie Asselin is an anthropologist who is working on perception and use of forest by different interest groups in the Yukon Territory, Canada.

Talk Title: Addressing the social nature of forests in the Yukon Territory.

My central area of inquiry is how multiple use issues are dealt with and understood on a social level among Euro-Canadians, and how forests are socially constructed in different ways in Canada’s north. This talk will concentrate on the importance of addressing place-specific forest perceptions and histories when considering forest management and use. I will first discuss a case study of a grass roots forest-values organization and how its members and work have been perceived by Yukon residents. I suggest that unaddressed issues of user-group stereotypes and forest management history undermined what was otherwise a successful example of community consultation. Second I will consider the impact of removing forest-extraction activities from public view. A situation that has erased the forest industry from the public’s understanding of Yukon forests and aided in the uptake of the wilderness narrative.

Everybody is welcome to come to the Arctic Centre and discuss with us about the relevant topics that Jodie will propose the audience!

Notes from the Arctic Dialogue conference 2011, Bodo, Norway

If we think about the impacts of extractive industries in the Arctic, for us anthropologists this means first and foremost looking at what industry does on the ground with people for whom the places on top of the deposits are their homeland.
As anthropologists, we don’t need to be told that cultural, social effects and interpersonal relations are absolutely crucial to understand why people make certain decisions and not others. But I am impressed and positively surprised how much business and management studies also now emphasise cultural and social factors in Arctic resource development. Their argument is actually very anthropological when they say that management practices in Arctic Extractive Industries face increasingly challenges of intercultural communication, and we need sort of cultural brokers to make mediate between different understandings and end up harmonising activities from different sides, e.g. from Russia and Norway. They also agree that harmonising does not mean ironing out different traditions, but rather different actors can benefit from this interaction as a joint mutual enrichment process (Bourmistrov and Sorne 2007). Continue reading “Notes from the Arctic Dialogue conference 2011, Bodo, Norway”