We are teaching again (September – December)

Arctic Studies Program ASPB1104 Peoples, Culture and Identities of the Arctic


Anna Stammler-Gossmann (September – October)

  1. The concept of indigeneity: From definitions to norms and to identity (object of international law; between transnational and local; who is indigenous?)
  2. North as space (geographical, economic, legal and mental space; homeland and frontier)
  3. Human-nature relations and environmental changes (culture-nature relations: ‘Western import’ and sentient landscape; scientific vs. local knowledge, concept of ‘reindeer/good fishing luck’; autonomy of nature and climate change, concept of vulnerability in context, state adaptive strategies and local agency, risk taking behavior and no-risk thesis)
  4. Anthropology of snow (social and economic significance of snow, Santa Claus tourism, ‘no snow’ emergencies, snow business)
  5. Anthropology of seawater (changing Arctic Ocean, borders and lines, multiple meanings of seawater, ‘taking and giving properties’, fish and fisheries; burden or asset – ‘newcomers’ to the ocean [King Crab and farmed fish]; dynamic seascape and coastal communities)

Nuccio Mazzullo  (October)

  1. Introduction to relevant anthropological approaches to issues of space, place and territoriality. Indigenous narratives of the land versus maps and borders to administrate the land.
  2.  Place names on maps and issues of identity. Mapping as way of reclaiming land and emphasizing indigenous presence and its relation with it (Inuit and Sámi examples).
  3. Resource conflicts and indigenous rights. Overview of some world wide example related to oil extraction, mining and forestry and then focus on the conflicts between Sámi reindeer herding and forestry in Upper Lapland
  4. Issues of locality and globality particularly in relation to indigenous identity.  Cultural and social change while keeping up with traditions.
  5. Tourism and cultural representations of otherness: issues of cultural and social authenticity.

Singing the Nganasan bear dance song in Hamburg.

On the first week of October the Institut für Finnougristik/Uralistik of HamburgUniversity (Germany) held the 4th International Conference on Samoyedology.

It was nice to see many familiar and well known Russian, Hungarian and German linguists who do their research on Siberian languages documentation, describing and linguistic analyzing, also on multilingualism and language policy regarding the Samoyedic languages; researches on contact linguistics, areality, typology and the Samoyedic music and culture. There were also so many young scientists, who gave a very positive impression about their research.

On the conference people mostly talked about the Samoyedic languages which are spoken on both sides of the Ural mountains, in northernmost Eurasia. I made a presentation about Oral history of Nenets, as one of the Uralic languages’ minority of Siberia, told by their life stories.

The term Samoyedic is used for Nenets, Nganasan, Enets and Selkups. These languages form the right branch of the Uralic languages family tree. The Samoyed territory extends from the White Sea to the Laptev Sea, along the Arctic shores of European Russia, including southern Novaya Zemlya, the Yamal peninsula, the mouths of the Ob River and the Yenisei and into the Taymyr peninsula in northernmost Siberia. Their economy is based mostly on reindeer herding.


Dancing and singing Nganasan bear song during the workshop. Photo Andrey Filchenko.

After a long day of the conference, Oksana Dobzhanskaya from Dudinka made a unique Nganasan bear dance workshop. She also asked people to make their personal songs in the language they study. In this warm and nice atmosphere, the conference was finished the next day, with further planning for the next one in two years time in Helsinki (Finland).

What’s the difference between science and religion? Thoughts about indigenous knowledge systems

Several of our anthropology research team members just came from a lecture by Prof Sandra Harding from UCLA on different science and knowledge systems, which was really inspiring. It was part of an Indigenous Knowledge Systems Workshop here at the Arctic Centre, the other keynote lecturers being Elina Helander Renvall and Suvi Ronkainen.

When we ‘do’ science together, is it indigenous or Western Knowledge? Harding argues that nowadays all this is hybrid knowledge (photo from Nel’min Nos, Nenets AO 2004)

Harding placed her thoughts on different epistemologies in the framework of postcolonial science studies, starting out with one of the most fatal western misconceptions: that there is only ONE right way of knowing, and that this can be produced only by ONE culture, namely western culture. Rather than summarizing her entire talk, I would highlight some of the issues that I found most inspiring. Continue reading “What’s the difference between science and religion? Thoughts about indigenous knowledge systems”