Internship Report, Anna Maria Manz

Internship at the Arctic Centre, Feedback by Anna-Maria Manz

In October and November 2010 I made a four-week internship at the Anthropology Team in the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi. I am glad that I may share my experiences and impressions on this new online platform for Arctic Anthropology. In this context I also want to express my gratitude towards the anthropologists for offering me this great internship opportunity and for welcoming me so warm-heartedly among them!

I headed to Finland from Freiburg (Germany), where I am studying Cultural and Social Anthropology, Geography and Sinology. Several journeys to China, Russia and Fennoscandia during the last years lead to an interest in Asia and the circumpolar regions,

Anna-Maria on a frosty day at Ounasvaara

which became decisive for my further studies. After searching for an internship in an academic institution in the North, I was very happy and grateful that the anthropologists of the Arctic Centre invited me to spend some time among their group in Rovaniemi. My stay there was a month full of inspiring moments – they not only provided me an insight in circumpolar anthropology and in their research projects but also into their life and work as anthropologists in the North.

winter landscape in Rovaniemi

My daily work in the Arctic Centre consisted mostly in supporting the anthropologists in their research projects and teaching. I was doing literature research, assisting in research application processes, helping to prepare university lessons, organizing some video materials from a fieldtrip to Yakutia, arranging topographical maps for the fieldwork regions and so on. For this purpose I was provided with my own office including a personal computer with internet access and was furthermore allowed to use all facilities of the Arctic Centre (the library, the museum) for my own study. Besides my office work I could take part in any university lessons of the Arctic Studies Programme and attend interesting lectures in the Arctic Centre. I was especially delighted about the many connections my work had with Yakutia, where I had spent several weeks the previous summer. Through all these activities I learned a lot about the Arctic and its inhabitants and about the research that anthropologists are doing among them.

Though, it was not only my work, but it were also many other activities and the meeting of so many interesting people, that made my internship a valuable and enriching experience. The coffee breaks in the Arctic Centre were a good chance to get to know the colleagues and their projects – researchers, PhD-students, librarians, office workers and other interns – and to make plans for the leisure time and weekend: hiking at Ounasvaara and around Rovaniemi in the frosty and dark winter days, sharing time during breakfasts and dinners, watching documentary films, attending the burning of the fire sculptures near the river and so on.

hiking around Rovaniemi

Moreover, I spent some pleasant days with a guest from Yakutsk, with whom I visited Santa Claus and who was teaching me a lot about Siberian shamanism. And, as for the anthropologists, it was not only during the marvelous Italian coffee breaks, that they provided a space for interesting talks, that they shared their rich experiences with me and gave me valuable advices for my own study and my forthcoming master thesis.

Anna and Alla in front of the Arctic Centre

At this point I want to express my gratitude to all who helped me to realize this journey to Finland and who contributed to making it such a pleasant and enriching experience. First of all I am indebted to Florian Stammler for coordinating and supervising my internship and to the other anthropologists, Anna Stammler-Gossmann, Nuccio Mazzullo and Alla Bolotova, for welcoming me in their team and sharing their experiences with me. Moreover, I want to thank Adam and Sébastien for arranging my accommodation in the student dormitory, Alla for welcoming me on my first evening and for many nice meetings and Martina and the other PhDs for taking me to the forest around Rovaniemi! From all of you I learned a lot of what it means to live and work as an anthropologist in the Arctic and I got many inspirations for my further study in and beyond the circumpolar regions. Thank you!

ORHELIA: ORal History of Empires by Elders in the Arctic

Hurraa! The anthropology resaerch team is VERY pleased and positively surprised about the big honour to have got a significant research grant by the research council for culture and society at the Academy of Finland.

What will this be about? This research contributes to developing a comparative history of relations between states and their remote subjects in the eyes of Arctic elders, so to say contributes to rewriting history ‘from the top of the world’. It aims to do so by using the method of life history analysis and oral history fieldwork combined with anthropological participant observation. Doing so, the project will also contribute to preserve incorporeal cultural heritage among Uralic speaking and former Uralic speaking northern minorities of Europe.

Yambonya Vengo, almost 100 years old, tells ORHELIA researcher Roza Laptander about the Soviet Union

But rather than ‘just’ talking to elders in the Arctic, in this project we will also try to find out through comparative analysis 1)  how states shape their’ peripheries’ in general, how they are perceived by the people, and 2) how experience by elders gets transmitted down the generation and to what extent does this transmission of incorporeal cultural experience shape the next generation’s perception of the state and, respectively, their approach to action vis a vis the state.  Thus, the project is very interested in theory of empires, anthropology of the state in addition to social and transmission of culturally significant experiences.

The competition for these grants is very high and we feel the high trust and expectation that is set in to the team to fulfil the work. The proposal had been reviewed by five different experts who made valuable contributions which we will surely consider while implementing the project from September 2011 – August 2015. From September on we will have a website probably at http://www.arcticcentre.org/orhelia, which will inform about the basics of the project, the field sites, people involved and type of work to be carried out. We had a first pre-project meeting partially on the phone where we agreedwhat has to be done before we meet in late August / early September to start the project.

Press release here.  Preliminary fieldwork for this project was carried out in Yamal, one of the field sites, in April 2011, thanks to pre-project support by a TV company. See the entry in this blog for a short report.