Forest Nenets ‘sacred ecology’ fieldwork

PhD candidate Rudolf Havelka, member of the Anthropology team under the supervision of Florian Stammler sends greetings from the field! Rudolf  has recently finished the first part of his field research among the Forest Nenets in Khanty-Mansi and Yamalo-Nenets AO, in West Siberia, Russia.

Rudolf with Yuri Vella close to Tiutei-Yakha, West Siberia

Rudolf’s focus is the relationship between religious thinking, ritual practice and the environment of the Forest Nenets. During three months in the field, Rudolf has lived in the summer camp of the Forest Nenets poet, activist and reindeer herder Yuri Vella on Tuiti-yakha River. Yuri is a longstanding friend and great teacher of many anthropologists working in the West Siberian North. At various stages, scholars like Eva Toulouze, Liivo Niglas, Stephan Dudeck, Natalya Novikova, Florian Stammler and many others have learned a lot from Yuri about knowing the forest and reindeer, and about coping with the oil industry in West Siberia. Eva Toulouze maintains a website for Yuri, which we warmly recommend.

After saying farewell to Yuri, Rudolf moved northwards to the Yamal-Nenets Okrug to spend some time with the Pjak-Netunta family on one of the tributaries of the Pur River. He has also established warm contacts with the employees of the Centre for National Cultures in Tarko- Sale. Rudolf is leaving back to field in the middle of September.

We gratefully acknowledge the support for Rudolf´s research by the Lapland Regional Fund of the Finnish Cultural Foundation

The Anthropology Research Team welcomes its new interns!

The Anthropology Research Team welcomes two more students who have joined us from the first week of July in order to do an internship at the Arctic Centre. They are Anne-Marie Lapointe from Laval University, Québec, Canada, and Trevelyan S. Wing from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA. At the moment they are both in Inari to get acquainted with the area and will be doing their separate fieldworks for their final dissertations. The length of their stay will vary and will include some 4-6 weeks in the field and some weeks back at the Arctic Centre for the writing up and for library facilities support. Anne-Marie has spent already one year at the University of Lapland studying at the Arctic Study Programme (ASP). Her topical interest is to look at the relations between Sámi people and tourism and in particular how these may have any influence on issues related to Sámi identity. On a different note is the topical interest of Trevelyan (Trevy). Trevy has been awarded a Stefansson Fellowship from Dartmouth to support him in both his internship and fieldwork. He is interested in issues related to climate change and on the possible effects and implications that these may have on reindeer herding as a whole. Their field experience and their writings will be supervised by Nuccio Mazzullo, who will be visiting them during their fieldwork and will support them back at the Arctic Centre.

Extractive Industries research at ICASS VII

The recent ICASS VII (June 22-26, 2011) paid respect to the ever increasing importance and public debate on extractive industries for Arctic residents.

Quo vadis Arctic extractive industry? Discussed at many sessions during ICASS VII

Several sessions were especially dedicated to this topic, and as many of us have been active in them, this blog entry shall provide a short start summary and serve as a comment-and-discussion platform for issues related to Arctic extractive industries.

The session convened by Florian Stammler & Jessica Shadian focused on the topic of consultation and resource governance, and the 12 presentations covered a wide range of topics with presenters from international relations and economics to sociology to anthropology of particular cases all the way to ‘papparazzi ethnography’ an excellent paper given by Arthur Mason from Berkeley who has also his own blog .

Arthur Mason presenting as 'paparazzi ethnographer' during the extractive industry session at ICASS VII

At the end of the session we had a one-hour discussion about possible future directions of social sciences research in extractive industries of the Arctic. There was a pretty broad consensus that important links at the science/practitioner interface should be developed further. This is a challenge for us social scientists, as this means working with ALL interested parties, not only indigenous research partners in the field, but also industry-representatives, decision makers, and NGO’s. We were pleased that a representative of Exxon Mobile sat through a whole day of presentations and still found it useful by the end of the day, admitting that industry can benefit a lot from the sort of expertise that we have.

Sorry Arthur, caught you with a "Gazprom" T-Shirt : academic impartiality? (just kidding)

But we have asked ourselves often whether and how we can afford to be involved closer with actors that are publicly considered anything but ‘impartial’. Comments on this and other issues are very welcome.

Likewise, after a paper by Patrick Lantto (Umea University) on Sami and hydroelectric power and wind power, we discussed whether or not understanding of extractive industry should include such renewable resrouces industry that become ever more important and have a certain set of similar consequences for the people residing in the activity area. Comments welcome as well!

This session was also used as a sumup and 3 year activity report for IASSA’s extractive industries working group (EIWG). The EIWG is a very loose network of social scientists for exchanging news, ideas, contacts, projects and other with their colleagues. You can read a charter of EIWG in the IASSA newsletter “Northern Notes” 30 from 2009, p. 14. If you are interested in joining the EIWG email list, please drop an email to fstammle(at)

Another extractive industries session was mostly on mining, convened by northern anthropologist Hannu Heikkinen from Oulu with Sylvie Blangy and included several presentations from their “DILACOMI” project that looks at the coexistence of mining, herding and tourism in Lapland. One question that arose was how anthropology with its distinctive method of participant observation can contribute more to assessing consequences from inside, i.e. through anthropologists working in the mining industry, in neighbouring reindeer herding areas or in tourism on the same areas.  While this may not be possible to achieve within existing limited project funding, the potential insights from this angle may be significantly different and complement well those generated by interviews, surveys, reviews and statistics. Comments on this are welcome here too. If you are interested in this project, drop an email to Hannu Heikkinen in Oulu or Mikko Jokinen at METLA in Kolari.

Another session looked specifically at the topic of mobile and commute labour within Arctic extractive industries, convened by Gertrude Eilmsteiner-Saxinger & Florian Stammler. Eilmsteiner-Saxinger  presented with her project members on various aspects of long distance commuting (LDC), or “vakhtovyi metod” (the Russian term for this form of labour).  Their project “Lives on the Move” explores a largely understudied area and is therefore definitely worth following. The anthropology research team collaborated with them in the framework of the BOREAS MOVE INNOCOM project, and and outcome of this collaboration is an edited volume on live in the Russian northern industrial city. with several presentations by our team members and affiliates from Rovaniemi, Oulu and Vienna.

Extractive Industry was also touched upon in the plenary session on Arctic Social Science beyond the IPY, when Florian Stammler talked about the initiative of a future pan-Arctic extractive industries phD programme and could develop as a partnership in future research and education among several universities under the umbrella of the University of the Arctic.  Ideas and comments on this are welcome to this initiative as well and can be directed to Jessica Shadian at Nordland University or Florian Stammler.

Dolphins enter Akureyri port as Kulan conducts blessing at ICASS congress

During the recent ICASS congress a good friend of the anthropology research team, Alexandr Artemiev from Yakutia, called Kulan, blessed the 396 delegates during the banquet with a ceremony. Kulan is a representative of the new Sakha spiritual movement

Kulan (Alexandr Artemiev) playing the Khomus at Gullfoss, one of Icelands great waterfalls

that unites an animistic worldview rooted in Sakha shamanic spirituality with elements of a global spiritual revival that we see happening in so many other places on our planet which has given ‘new age’ so much uniting power.

As Kulan was playing the Khomus (Sakha mouth harp) during the blessing, Dolphins entered the port area of Akureyri, which we were told was highly unusual, especially as there were quite some people outside there in the port, among them even swimmers. ICASS VII convener Jon Haukur Ingimundarson was very surprised and pleased about this encouraging sign, which indicated the good spirits present at his conference. Certainly the sound of a Sakha Khomus is not amongst the most usual sounds that dolphins get to hear with their excellent ears in the fjord of Akureyri, which may have added to their generous curiosity.  When Kulan stopped playing and dozens of people streamed out to see the dolphins, they retreated back towards the open sea, so that few of us actually saw them.

Kulan also gave a presentation with Florian Stammler about the scientific and the supernatural at one of ICASS VII’s largest sessions, Stephan Doneckers “Imagining the supernatural North”. There he tried to explain how ancient Sakha spiritual knowledge seamlessly integrates with recent esoteric movements and also makes use of scientific terminology to describe the world beyond its measurable dimensions. It all comes down to an understanding of what several of our anthropology colleagues have extensively studied in many remote societies of the Arctic, which is the organic unification of the bodily, tangible, natural, spiritual, mental and all other components in the environment to a partnership of agency. In a talk with Tim Ingold Kulan and Florian Stammler noticed that anthropological enquiry and this spiritual work can go along similar lines, when we accept what Ingold (2000) has called the “dwelling perspective” and the “human agent-in-the-environment”, or David Anderson’s “sentient ecology” in Taimyr (Northcentral Siberia) (2000:116),  Florian Stammler’s “livestyle nomadism” in Yamal (Northwestern Siberia) (2005:23).

ICASS VII congress Akureyri, Iceland

Arctic Social Sciences are getting more and more diverse, and we were very pleased to see so many disciplines presented at the recent International Congress of Arctic Social Scientists in Akureyri, Iceland, from 22-26 June 2011. This was the biggest congress of this kind ever, with 450 participants, and although northern anthropology was a very prominent discipline as is the tradition at ICASS, less ‘usual’ disciplines such as Arctic law, arts, film making, literature made this one truly interdisciplinary. This is a very powerful reminder for us that interdisciplinary work is not only us anthropologists teaming up with natural scientists on climate change projects (as important as this is…), but finding common ground with other social scientists as well!

A new dawn for Arctic Social Sciences? Discussed at ICASS in Akureyri

It was very nice to see so many delegates from Finland as well at the congress even though the date was just after Finnish national midsummer holiday juhannus. The ICASS council, to which anthropology resaerch team coordinator Florian Stammler was re-elected thanks everybody for making this congress into such a powerful statement on the importance of social sciences in current and future Arctic development.

The ICASS congress is held usually every three years, and the congress is always also used for electing a new president (congratulations to Gail Fondahl for this!), who also hosts the next congress (in Prince George, University of Northern British Columbia). Here comes a warm invitation to all readers to stay within or become member of IASSA, the international Arctic Social Sciences Association, and read “Northern Notes”, their newsletter to stay updated about everything in the Arctic Social Sciences community.

Anthropology team members were involved in many different sessions, about some of which you may read in separate entries to this blog. In particular, these were sessions about

“Identity Making in the Border Regions of the European North” convened by Maria Lähteenmäki with a presentation by Nuccio Mazzullo,

“Movement for Pleasure – the Pleasure of Moving” convened by Otto Habeck and Ludek Broz with a presentation by Anna Stammler-Gossmann,

“Imagining the Supernatural North” convened by Stephan Donecker with a presentation by our friend Alexandr Artemiev (Kulan) about new Siberian spirituality together with Florian Stammler (see following entry on Dolpins in this blog)

several sessions on extractive industries in the Arctic (one convened by Florian Stammler & Jessica Shadian, one by Hannu Heikkinen and one by Gertrude Eilmsteiner-Saxinger & Florian Stammler with several presentations by our team members and affiliates from Rovaniemi, Oulu and Vienna

“Human Aspects of Fisheries in the Arctic Coastal Regions” convened by Peter Weiss et al with a presentation by Anna Stammler-Gossmann

a plenary session on “Arctic Social Sciences Beyond IPY” convened by Igor Krupnik with a presentation by Florian Stammler

and a “Exploratory Roundtable: Perceptions and Representations of Arctic Science” convened by Otto Habeck with a presentation by Anna Stammler-Gossmann

If you want you can watch here general information about the recent ICASS by president Joan Nymard-Larsen who will stay in office until president-elect Gail Fondahl will take over from her.