Job offer in Aberdeen: lecturer anthropology

Our colleague Tatiana Agrounova-Low shares a job-opening for a lecturer in anthropology at the department in Aberdeen. By the way, congratulations to her for becoming Head of Department in Aberdeen! Most of you know that the department in Aberdeen is one of the top addresses for Arctic Anthropology worldwide, since the time Tim Ingold and David Anderson advanced it to that level with their colleagues. The job offer does not specify the Arctic as a specific field. Rather they emphasize that competence in museum issues is of advantage. However, given the orientation of other staff there one would assume that Arctic specialisation is at least not excluded… The job duration is advertised as “substantive”, whatever that means in the job-seekers jargon. Here is the link to the ad.

Mobility in the tundra: how to use the old snowmobiles in the summer

From my field notes: “It is still early morning, 4th of August, 2021. I am waiting for a telephone call from a Nenets woman whom I had met yesterday in Aksarka. She had said that she is from Laborovaia and is going to travel there by a rented car. For her it was the only opportunity to travel to the tundra with her three little children. The price of the trip is rather high, therefore she was looking for poputchiki – ‘fellow travellers’. We had made an agreement that she would call me when she would arrive in Salekhard, the capital city of the Yamal region, which is along the way to Laborovaia, another village near the Ural Mountains”.

Roads in Salekhard. Photo. Roza Laptander.

I did all the necessary shopping and bought a big bag of fresh bread, too, which is a classical way of travelling to the tundra, with no bakery around for many kilometers. When, at last, a car, called in Russian bukhanka – “a loaf of bread” because of it’s form, arrived at Salekhard, it was around lunch time. I loaded all my bags into the car and we started our long trip. 

The UAZ-452 or in Russian ‘bukhanka’ is a family of cab over off road vans  produced at the Ulianovsk Automobile Plant (UAZ) since 1965. Photo. Roza Laptander.

Originally, we had planned that the trip to Laborovaia would take us 5 hours. In reality, it took much more time. 

We only left Labytnangy and went for 10 kilometers along the moto-way to the north, when our driver said that the car needs reparation. We returned back to Labytnangy and stayed there for three more hours. Even after checking out three different car service centres, no one wanted to repair our old bukhanka. So, our driver asked somebody to help him.

The road Labytnangy-Laborovaia. Photo. Roza Laptander.

Only at six o’clock in the evening the car got the needed repairs and was ready to travel along the mountains and rocky road to our final destination – the village of Laborovaia. At that point we were tired and hungry, but only a few kilometers away from the crowded human habitation, when we saw the beautiful landscape of the Ural Mountains, we forgot about our difficult beginning of the trip.

Only mountains can be better than mountains. Photo. Roza Laptander. 

On some points of the rocky road, with pits and potholes, our wreck of a car could only drive 20 km/h. We arrived at Laborovaia at night, around two o’clock. After a quick tea and putting on tundra clothes, we started another exciting part of our trip to the tundra, this time on a snowmobile. It was much easier and faster than by car. 

People in the tundra had started to use their snowmobiles for travelling in the summer several years ago.

In the Laborovskaia tundra. Photo Roza Laptander.

Even though some people have ATVs and they are aware it is not good for the condition of the vehicles, it is still the only means of transportation, which is very suitable and good for travelling in the tundra, even in the summer. This means that tundra people use means of transportation in a way that is suitable for their contemporary life.  As I understand, they use the snowmobiles for travelling in the summer only on the wet and flat landscape. While in the rocky mountains it is better to travel on ATVs. 

On the way. Photo. Roza Laptander.

A snapshot of contemporary indigenous life – with emphasis on Sámi perspectives

A new publication on Arctic Indigenous Peoples from The Sámi Council and German Arctic Office (at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research) was just recently launched. While shortly browsing through it, I found that it is written very shortly and concisively and for a broad lay audience including decision makers. It is a publication written mostly by indigenous representatives (mostly Sámi) who are active politically in promoting Arctic indigenous rights. I particularly liked the illustrations.

“This collaborative project between the Sámi Council and the German Arctic Office depicts the ways of life Indigenous Peoples lead in the Arctic. As resilient cultures, Arctic Indigenous Peoples hold distinct knowledge on how to respectfully use the environment to co-exist within the ecosystems. Even though resilience is enclosed within these cultures, the challenge of coping with both environmental changes and domestic regulations affects the practice and development of Indigenous Knowledge. This text describes how Arctic Indigenous Peoples use Indigenous Knowledge as a generationally refined way of knowing to ensure the vivid development of cultures and livelihoods. It further illustrates how Indigenous Peoples have traditionally developed circular governance systems that sustainably care for the environment instead of dominating it. Indigenous Knowledge, as the foundation of these ways of life, is therefore central for Arctic Indigenous Peoples cultures and how they collectively preserve the stability of Arctic and sub-Arctic environments.”

From an anthropological point of view, it catches our eyes that the publication does not really have identifiable authors. It bears the name of the two organisations – the Saami Council and the German Arctic Office. Then there is an editorial team consisting mostly of interns. Not sure was the editorial team actually responsible for the content and wrote the text? Was it reviewed by someone? I found it slightly irritating that the sources they cite are actually not part of the pdf of the publication, but you need to click on their website on a separate link. Looking at the sources, it caught my eye that most of them is literature intended for a general or professional audience. Of over 40 sources, less than 10 were scholarly publications, including from the IPCC or the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. A lot of the sources are published by indigenous peoples organisations, the Arctic Council, the Nordic Council of ministers etc. So this piece is a good source for us to make sense of the view of indigenous peoples and decision makers.