Call for papers: Arctic Crossings

Please see the call for papers below, and consider joining us at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting in San Francisco in November!

CFP: Arctic Crossings
American Anthropological Association
San Francisco, CA
November 14-18, 2012

Panel organizers: Sara V. Komarnisky (University of British Columbia) and Lindsay A. Bell (University of Toronto)

The global circumpolar north is often produced as distant, empty, and isolated, far away and disconnected from powerful economic or cultural centers further south. However, the north is becoming an increasingly central site in both globally interconnected processes and in the global imagination. The north has always been an important strategic region: past human migrations and government relocations, colonial exploration, gold rushes, and government megaprojects have shaped the social and geographical landscape. In addition, a range of processes are increasingly producing northern locales as global sites: environmental panics, resource exploration and extraction, military exercises, scientific investigation, conservation efforts, highly valued art and craft production, labour migration, and many others.

“The way we imagine space has effects” (Massey 2005), and the implications of the ways in which the global circumpolar north is imagined and produced will become of central importance to the many and different people who live there as these emergent processes unfold and grow. This panel brings together research that does not fit within the usual global imagination of the circumpolar north. We seek case studies and/or unlikely ethnographies which track what we call “arctic crossings”. That is, those uncommon, yet productive theoretical spaces in which to examine linkages between space, politics, identity, and imagination. As the circumpolar north is produced through connections with other geographies, the idea of arctic crossings provides a unique vantage point for talking about northern life – the crossings between long time resident and newcomer, between locations north and south, between local livelihoods and transnational global capital. We invite papers that explore the meeting places, crossings, and encounters in the circumpolar north today or in the past.

Please email abstracts (250 words maximum) to and by March 31, 2012.

More information regarding the AAA annual meetings can be found here.

Controversies in northern mining: Mika Flöjt’s book: ‘just’ Nickel, or Uranium?

According to the EU paper   “Analysis of the competitiveness of the non-energy extractive industry in the EU” from 2007, Fennoscandia is planned to be a centre of mining in Europe, alongside other world centres in Australia and Eastern Canada.
We just listened to a presentation here in Rovaniemi where Mika Flöjt tried to summarise the arguments of his recent book on Europe’s biggest Nickel Mine, Talvivaara. The book is in Finnish. Therefore I found it useful to put a summary of what he said up here for those interested in the Arctic extractive industries.

Talvivaara Mine Site. Europe's biggest Nickel or also Uranium mine?

His paper raises several hot questions relevant for northern extractive industries and processes of information management and decision making in general.
Continue reading “Controversies in northern mining: Mika Flöjt’s book: ‘just’ Nickel, or Uranium?”

Sámi and Finnish people West of the Kola Peninsula

Nina Meschtyb’s reconnaissance field trip Jona and Jonskaya, February 2012

My departure was sudden, as well as the place where I decided to go. The destination of my first trip for the ORHELIA project was a little village west of the Kola Peninsula – Jona (Ёна). When we think of Russian Sámi, everybody has the village of Lovozero as an association. But there are also Sámi in other places of Russia! Together with Florian we decided that this place Jona should be interesting to visit for the purpose of our study. It is a pleasure to look back and see that we were not mistaken. This village has a rich and little known history and of course people remember it, they live with this memory and retell it in their own way.

Jonskaia. A Russian mining village close to the Finnish border in the Sámi area.

Continue reading “Sámi and Finnish people West of the Kola Peninsula”

Arctic Design and Indigenous Knowledge

Svetlana Usenyuk

My name is Svetlana Usenyuk, I am a postdoctoral researcher at Aalto University School of Art, Design and Architecture, Helsinki. I completed my PhD last summer in Ekaterinburg, Russia, with the topic “Arctic Design: the Principle of Co-creation for Transport Vehicles”. My research experience is rooted in studying Western Siberian indigenous peoples, particularly Khanty and Nenets.

My current project “Arctic Technologies of Adaptation and Survival: Traditions and Innovations” is meant to be an extension of the previous one, with broader consideration of material culture of circumarctic indigenous peoples.

The aim is to reveal their principles of adaptation and survival in extreme environment through man-made things. The research is long-term, comparative, performing in an iterative way. The core idea is to shift the framing of Arctic indigenous knowledge from a theoretical concept that has been of long-standing importance within anthropology and archaeology, to the area of critical design practice.

Arctic vehicles. Students' projects by Alexey Sokolov and Irina Putilova

During the next two years in Finland I will be particularly interested in Sámi people, i.e. on their contribution to circumpolar adaptation technologies.

I know that a big challenge is going to be the link between fieldwork and results from theoretical modeling of human-object coexistence. That is why I am very pleased with the opportunity to work at the Arctic Centre’s anthropology research team as a visiting researcher. I envision my cooperation with the team not only in the studies of humans in an Arctic environment. My project will also hopefully significantly enriched by multiple viewpoints from scientists with different theoretical frames.

And who knows…? Maybe somebody here in the blog or in the team is interested in discussing with me the link between Arctic Anthropology and Arctic Design – my own professional field. I would very much look forward to any feedback!

EU politicians talk to people in the Arctic

Yesterday we had a visit to the Arctic Centre by the chief of Foreign Affairs in the European Union Lady Ashton, together with Finnish Foreign Minister Tuomioja. They are on a journey through northern Europe to get inspired for further work on the EU’s Arctic policy. Lady Ashton very clearly wanted to get the message across to Arctic stakeholders that the EU is a friend and partner that listens to the concerns of the people, including indigenous ones. These words sounded very nice and modest, but of course there was not really much time to talk. She spent just some hours in Rovaniemi, not quite the kind of time that we anthropologists invest when we go to the field and want to talk to people:)

Lady Ashton and Minister Tuomioja (in the middle at the table) talking to a selected group of people in the Arctic Centre

Since the  atmosphere was very friendly from all sides, critical questions that would possibly challenge this picture were not asked. I was the only full time anthropologist there present at the meeting, but felt moral support by Klemmetti Näkkäläjärvi, the Sami parliament’s president in Finland, who is also a long-term affiliate in our team. I thought for myself ‘what would Lady Ashton say if I ask her about the EU’s policy towards the seal ban that has spoilt the EU’s relations to Arctic coastal indigenous residents so much?’. But then I didn’t ask this because it would clearly have created tensions in this super-harmonious atmosphere.

What I did ask though was the EU’s priority for Arctic cooperation with Russia, now that this biggest country in the Arctic just got a new-old president. Ashton said that Russia is a crucial partner in the Arctic (well that’s no surprise), and that in fact there are more fields where the EU agrees with Russia than those where there are tensions. Ashton also made clear that the Arctic is in fact only a small tiny field within the broad range of topics in the relations between the EU and Russia. I think while it’s true that there are many other topics in these relations too, it is in the Arctic where the future gets decided. In particular, it could be that the EU foreign policy unit is not fully aware that actually the whole energy policy relations with Russia fall within the Arctic sphere, because almost all of Europe’s energy imports from Russia are from the North.

Minister Tuomioja added something very pleasant to this question: he said we need to increase intellectual exchange with Russians, in the student and research sphere. He wants to see many more people from Russia coming to Finnish Universities, and members of Finnish Universities going to Russia. This felt very nice to me, because it is in this field where we have been particularly successful in the anthropology research team. We have a long record of not only going to Russia to do fieldwork and conferences, (as you see in many entries in this blog), but also bringing people from Russia here, employ them in our projects or have them as interns. Alla Bolotova, Elena Nuykina, Natalia Bochkareva, Roza Laptander, Nina Meschtyb have all contributed to making our team ever better known in the anthropology of Arctic Russia.We are proud of their work, and happy if a VIP from the government likes that orientation.